Unusual Care Partnership Leads to New Liver for Young Norfolk Girl

The Battle Building, home of the UVA Children’s Hospital.

A 13-year-old Norfolk girl is the first patient to receive a transplant in a unique pediatric liver transplant partnership between Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.

India Johnson suffered from two rare genetic diseases that caused her liver and kidneys to fail. India needed a liver and kidney transplant, so on Feb. 11, her mother contacted the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center at UVA, the only comprehensive transplant center in Virginia. Coincidentally, it was the same day that UVA’s partnership with Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC was announced.

The partnership was established to expand UVA’s pediatric liver transplant program and increase access to care for transplant patients throughout Virginia. Under the program, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC transplant surgeons consult with UVA counterparts and with Virginia-based patients via electronic consultation, or teleconsult. Once organs become available for transplant, a team of nurses, surgeons and specialists from Pittsburgh travel to UVA to perform the transplant alongside UVA transplant surgeons.

India and her mother, Melody Johnson, traveled to Charlottesville for evaluation with the UVA team in person and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC team via telemedicine.

“The team was so confident in what they could do, it made me confident,” Melody Johnson said. “I was really comfortable with the facility and the people.”

India received her new liver and a kidney on May 17, two weeks after she was originally added to the national organ transplant waiting list. Physicians report that she is doing very well.

“We’re so pleased that India received her transplant closer to home with exceptional care from UVA and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC,” said Dr. Kenneth Brayman, division chief of transplant surgery and director of the Strickler Transplant Center.

“We’re honored that India and her family entrusted her care to us and we’re very pleased with her progress so far,” said Dr. George V. Mazariegos, director of pediatric transplantation at the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s. “She represents the beginning of an important collaboration between our transplant program and our colleagues at UVA. Working together, we plan to greatly enhance this region’s organ transplant capabilities so that families from Virginia can remain close to home and still get the highest level of pediatric transplant care available in the country.”

“India’s transplant experience is a remarkable example of UVA working with partners to provide the highest level of specialty care to the citizens of the commonwealth,” Dr. Richard P. Shannon, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs, said.

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