Intestinal transplant life-changing for Kent girl


by Jean Enersen

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Posted on May 7, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 11 at 9:46 AM

"Hi Dede. You helping?" Rhonda Smith asked her little girl as she cradled the girl's brother and fed him formula.

Dede is her 3-year-old's nickname. Her mother named her Destiny. She watches her baby brother Kareem drink his bottle. But she doesn't drink or eat. Not yet. It's because of a birth defect. She was rushed to surgery the day after she was born.

"And when they went in, there was no bowel," explained Smith.

Destiny's nutrients have always come through tubes. Right now she carries them with her 24 hours a day.

Her mother painstakingly stocks and administers them, along with medications.

"This is Dede's life. This is what I have to do every day. I have to use one of each thing on this shelf every day for Dede," Smith said

Dr. Simon Horslen, Medical Director of the Intestine and Liver Transplant Program at Seattle Children's told what parents go through when they discover their infant will be different.

"There is the sadness at the time of birth when you're expecting a healthy baby, and something devastating happens," Dr. Horslen said.

His team of transplant surgeons is one of a handful around the country that can perform the rare surgery Destiny needed.

"It's about as big an operation as you can put anyone through," he said.

An intestinal transplant was Destiny's only hope. After three years on a waiting list, the call came that would change everything.

"It was the best phone call of my life. I can't even explain in words how I felt when I got that phone call, because we never thought that that was going to happen," recalled Rhonda Smith.

This January another family, who had lost their own child, gave a chance to the little girl they never met. Destiny got her intestinal transplant.

"Many families have expressed to me that actually they find some comfort in knowing that at least a little good can come out of what is always a tragedy," said Dr. Horslen.

Rhonda Smith wanted the donor family to know how grateful she is.

"They have truly blessed my household. They have truly given me the hope that I was looking for. And I thank them," said Smith.

Today Destiny is still fearful of eating. It will take time. Her doctor said the change may not come until kindergarten. He said many children begin to eat around school age so that they can be the same as their peers.

"I can't wait for the day when she can just be a normal child," said Rhonda Smith.
Destiny's future is truly hopeful. The oldest survivor of a pediatric intestinal transplant went through the surgery in the late 80s. Life Center Northwest and the United Network for Organ Sharing have more information on organ donation.