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Moments: 8-month-old thrives after two liver transplants in two days

Years after the transplant, Carolyn, who was once a jaundiced and lethargic infant, is now an exuberant and energetic toddler.
In her first year of life, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital patient Carolyn Cooper survived two liver transplants.

In 2010, 8-month-old Carolyn Cooper had just about run out of time. Diagnosed with biliary atresia, liver failure had taken a grim toll on the child. She was emaciated, jaundiced and lethargic. Her parents, Bryant and Stephanie Cooper, were beside themselves as they watched their infant daughter slip away.

After exhausting other medical treatments, “we decided to move forward with a transplant because [Carolyn] had significant issues with failure to thrive,” Bryant Cooper said. “She was unable to gain weight and required feeding tubes and multiple medications; she was fighting for her life.”

Once Carolyn was on the organ waiting list, a liver became available within two months. On Christmas Eve morning, Srinath Chinnakotla, MD, transplant surgeon and clinical director of the pediatric transplant program at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, gathered the transplant team.

Learn more about our Pediatric Liver Transplant Program.

They began surgery at 10 p.m., operating through the night. About six hours into the surgery, however, it was clear the liver had not survived extraction and transportation. Little Carolyn had, at the most, 48 hours to live. Devastated, Stephanie and Bryant did not lose hope. On Christmas night, their wish for another liver became reality. Once again, Chinnakotla and his team rushed Carolyn into surgery.

“The first surgery was exciting in a weird way. It was the chance we were waiting for,” says Stephanie. “We knew there were risks, but we were nervous and excited. When we knew we needed another liver, that’s when it got really scary.”

The second transplant was successful and Bryant and Stephanie were elated. “Carolyn had some of the most incredible nurses and doctors in the world,” Bryant said. “And Dr. Chinnakotla is the most remarkable man on the planet!”

Several years later, the once jaundiced and lethargic infant is an exuberant and energetic toddler. Today, Carolyn’s boundless energy decries the trauma she once endured.

“The remarkable thing is that University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital does about eight liver transplants a year,” says Bryant “and Carolyn had two of them in two days, which is truly a Christmas miracle.”