Nearly two years ago, Leon Tadiswa (5) began to show the symptoms of a recurrent chest infection, pneumonia, difficulty in breathing, weight loss, and jaundice. In October 2021, he was diagnosed with the hepato-pulmonary syndrome, an uncommon condition that affects the lungs of those with advanced liver disease. The child, doctors said, suffered from liver cirrhosis and elevated pressure in the portal vein that leads to the liver (portal hypertension). Making it worse, most of his blood was bypassing his lung capillaries, which did not get saturated with oxygen, which reduced his oxygen intake. So, Leon had to carry an oxygen cylinder 24 hours while walking, sleeping, eating, using the washroom, having food, etc., thus, ensuring an external supply of oxygen.
After the Covid restrictions on international travel eased, the child’s parents rushed him to Artemis Hospital for treatment. Subsequently, his liver transplant surgery was successful, said Dr Giriraj Bora, leading the surgeons from the hospital involved with the case. The child has been breathing naturally without an oxygen cylinder since the surgery.
According to Bora, the chief of liver transplant and senior consultant of gastrointestinal & hepato-pancreatic-biliary surgery at the Artemis Hospital in Gurgaon, “On examination, we found that it was a case of a very high level of oxygen bypass. The child’s shunt fraction (the percentage of blood pumped out by the heart that is not oxygenated) was 67%. It meant that only one-third of the blood pumped by his heart was carrying oxygen. Such a poor figure for blood oxygenation has not been recorded in India before. A liver transplant was the only option to save the child’s life.”
The child’s 53-year-old maternal uncle donated his liver for the surgery. “When the patient visited us for an initial checkup, he needed to be administered 10 litres of oxygen every minute to survive. After the transplant, he is completely off the oxygen cylinder and breathing naturally. The child was in our hospital for just 26 days,” the doctor said. Nyasha Mhandu, the patient's mother, said, “I still can't believe that Leon is breathing on his own now. I want to watch him grow up into a smart, young man.”