Press conference celebrates first successful living-donor liver transplant

Press conference promotes organ donation, celebrates first successful living-donor liver transplant

November 23, 1999

Illinois Governor George Ryan, Secretary of State Jesse White, and special guests Teri and Alyssa Smith spoke at a press conference at on November 23, 1999 at the University of Chicago Hospitals to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first living-donor liver transplant.

Ten years ago medical history was made when on November 27, 1989, Teri Smith, then 29, from Schertz, Texas, donated a portion of her liver to her then 21-month-old daughter, Alyssa. Alyssa was suffering from biliary atresia, the most common fatal liver disease in childhood.

Today, Alyssa is an active, healthy 11-year-old sixth grader who plays sports and takes dance lessons. She came to Chicago with her family to help mark this medical milestone.

At the time of the transplant, the University of Chicago had just established a program of living-donor liver transplantation to reduce the shortage of appropriate donors for infant recipients.

Governor Ryan and Secretary of State White join the University of Chicago in reminding the public during the start of this holiday gift-giving season that each of us has the capacity to save a life through organ donation.

To date, the University of Chicago team has performed 119 living-donor liver transplants including three from unrelated donors.

Other transplant highlights at the University of Chicago include:

  • The University of Chicago liver transplant team, one of the largest in the country, transplants more than 100 organs each year. They have transplanted more than 1,300 livers since the program began in 1984.
  • The team performed the first segmental liver transplant from a cadaver in 1985 and the first split-liver transplant in the United States in 1988.
  • In May of 1999 the liver team began clinical testing of the first artificial liver device to rely on human liver cells.
  • The transplant team also performed several rare multi-organ transplants. Heart-liver transplants have been performed fewer than a dozen times in the U.S., including three times at the University of Chicago--all successful. The team also performed two successful heart-kidney-pancreas transplants and the only successful heart-liver-kidney transplant.
  • The kidney transplant program is one the oldest and largest in Illinois. They have transplanted nearly 2,000 kidneys since 1968. The rapidly growing heart transplant team is the second largest in Illinois.