During a medical emergency, there is not much time left for the doctor to think and decide which surgical procedure can save the patient and how risky it can get. In such a tight rope situation, he just has to go ahead and give his best to rescue his patient from the edge of death. Professor Mohamed Rela came face to face with this dire crisis about 20 years ago where he provided a new lease of life to a five days old girl through a successful liver transplant.
Both the doctor and the patient made instant world records and flashed on almost all media platforms: Liver transplant of the youngest patient in the world performed by Indian doctor, Professor Mohamed Rela.
Now, after almost two decades, they have met again. The little girl, Baebhen Schutkke, is now a healthy individual and a law student indulging herself in canoeing, swimming, and hill climbing. “It has been so amazing to come back to where my life was saved all those years ago. It wouldn’t have been possible without the parents of a tragic boy donating his liver and the skills of Prof Rela and his team”, she said to Mirror.
According to Professor Rela, "She is fine, fit and healthy and an amazing advert for the longevity of transplants. Patients worry their liver will wear out after five or ten years. If you avoid the problems of rejection the future is good.”
Going back to 1997, Baebhen was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder of neo-natal haemachromatosis just a week before she was born. The iron accumulation poisoned her liver. Baebhen is not the only to have suffered from such a disease. Previously, her elder brothers, Lucas and Reuben had already breathed their last within weeks due to this disease.
After Lucas had passed away, her parents, Ita and Jurgen, searched for available treatment procedures online. Thereafter when Reuben was diagnosed with the same genetic disorder, Ita got admitted to the hospital. But after four weeks of sepsis Reuben too could not be saved.
After Baebhen was diagnosed with the same, Prof. Rela and his team narrowed down to a cadaverous liver transplant, the donor being a ten-year-old accident victim. Ita and Jurgen was informed that Baebhen would be taken to the operation theatre for the transplant once they get their permission. As quoted in the Mirror, Ita said, “We had lost two boys so we knew we had to let them try something different”.
The procedure included dissection of the donor liver to one eighth of its original size (the smallest to be ever transplanted) so that it would fit in Baebhen’s teensy abdomen. The donor and the recipient’s tiny blood vessels were joined with the help of microsurgery technique with image enhancing glasses. “She was so small we were expecting possible setbacks but there were none and maybe being small was to her advantage”, said he.
Fortunately, after the transplant Baebhen’s body did not reject the donor organ. According to Prof. Rela, it might have been compatible with her body because she was still a baby and her immune system has not been fully matured. “Now we are proud of her and what we did”, said he.
After the transplant, Baebhen experienced a steady and healthy growth. According to her mother, Ita, her development as a child has been remarkable as while looking at her it was pretty difficult to imagine how close she was to death.