Yale New Haven helps turn a hero’s gift into a superhero’s future
Tim Landock with Dylan Quiroa and his family (l-r): big sister, Gimena, father, Elmar, and mother, Lesly. The Landocks and Quiroas are like one family since Tim donated part of his liver to help save Dylan’s life.
It’s hard for Tim Landock to fathom how giving such a small part of himself could have such an enormous impact.
And yet, there’s living proof: 2-year-old Dylan Quiroa, clad in a superhero cape and fidgeting a little in his mother’s lap after a recent checkup at Yale New Haven Transplantation Center.
Last year, this same child was “extremely ill” due to biliary atresia, a rare condition affecting infants in which bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked. Because bile can’t flow into the intestine, it builds up and damages the liver. Dylan was yellow with jaundice and extremely thin, despite a feeding tube. His bloated belly didn’t allow him to play very much, and he seemed sad, said his mother, Lesly.
“Dylan desperately needed a transplant, but finding an organ is difficult, especially for pediatric patients, who need a smaller liver,” said Sukru Emre, MD, who specializes in adult and pediatric transplant surgery. “Thank God this donor became available.”
On Feb. 12 Yale New Haven Transplantation Center (YNHTC) surgeons Ramesh Batra, MD, and David Mulligan, MD, removed a piece of liver from the 52-year-old Landock and Dr. Emre and Danielle Haakinson, MD, transplanted it into Dylan.
Millie Landock, a Yale New Haven Hospital employee and wife of Bridgeport resident and firefighter Tim Landock, are godparents to 2-year-old Dylan Quiroa, who received part of Tim’s liver nearly a year ago.
It was an example of how Yale New Haven Hospital’s Center for Living Organ Donors is connecting living donors with a growing number of patients needing liver and kidney transplants. Nearly 13,500 people are on the national transplant waiting list for a liver, but there’s a significant shortage of deceased donor organs. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, nearly 8,500 deceased donor transplants and around 400 living donor transplants occurred in 2018.
“In our region, one in five patients may die before receiving a transplant,” said Annmarie Liapakis, MD, YNHTC transplant hepatologist. “Living donation allows patients to receive livers more quickly, which is important because people with liver disease may have a limited window before they become too ill for successful transplant.”
Data show better outcomes with living donor transplants performed at facilities experienced in this type of donation, said Dr. Mulligan, chief of Transplantation Surgery and Immunology. YNHTC’s team includes surgeons with expertise in adult and pediatric liver transplantation, along with advanced practice providers, nurses, social workers and specialists in behavioral health, radiology and other disciplines.
“We can provide options for high-risk patients who have been turned down for transplantation elsewhere,” Dr. Mulligan said. “Not all centers perform living liver donor transplants, and we are among a select few that perform ‘nondirected’ transplants, which involve donating to a stranger.”
Last year, Landock had never met Dylan, or even thought about donating an organ. One day, he saw a news story about a youngster near his hometown of Bridgeport who needed a transplant. Landock wondered if his kids had played sports with the boy or his siblings.
“I read that the boy had type O blood – the same as mine,” Landock said. “That flipped a switch. All of a sudden, I thought, ‘I have to get checked out to see if I’m a match.'”
He contacted YNHH’s Center for Living Organ Donors and was scheduled for a series of appointments the next day. The young man Landock had read about found another donor, but staff asked if he would be interested in donating to a baby.
“How can you say ‘no’ to a baby?” Landock said. He got to meet Dylan and his family three weeks later, and still chokes up talking about it.
“My knees buckled,” he said. “It was like seeing the birth of my own children.” Dylan’s mother, Lesly, also gets teary-eyed recalling the moment. “I can’t find the words to describe it,” she said.
Since the transplant, Dylan is “thriving,” Dr. Emre said. Both families get together periodically, and Lesly and Elmar, Dylan’s father, asked Landock and his wife, Millie, to be Dylan’s godparents.
“We are so grateful to Tim and the doctors and everybody who helped us,” Lesly said. “Thanks to them, Dylan is a new little boy.”