NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Multi-organ transplants have always been pretty rare, especially in children and especially with a drop in donations during COVID-19 lockdowns.
But now, a California teenager is recovering after receiving both a heart and a liver transplant, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Thursday.
It is a remarkable story of survival. Mark Trapp can’t wait to get back to playing sports now that he has a new heart and liver.
“I’m just so grateful and I’m happy that I can enjoy my life now,” the 14-year-old said.
“I just want everyone to know how Mark is just an amazing child,” added his mother, Melissa Gilbert.
Mark was born with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, leaving his right heart chamber underdeveloped and unable to pump blood through his lungs. He has had three open-heart surgeries since birth, but suffered complications after the most recent one, which would have eventually led to liver damage.
“The only solution to that was to find a way for him to have two heart ventricles, and the only way to do that is by replacing his heart,” said Dr. Jondavid Menteer of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
As Mark waited years for a heart, he deteriorated and the team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles decided a double transplant — heart and liver — was his best chance.
“I’m trying to stay strong for him and show him that I don’t want to break down because everything is going to be OK,” Gilbert said.
Mark waited more than five months in the hospital for his transplant.
“It was very long and I had to be patient. I was just anxious and frustrated,” Mark said.
“We’ve never had somebody that required a liver transplant at the same time. This was new territory for us. So, we did a lot of preparation for this procedure,” Menteer said.
Mark has a message for other kids facing challenges.
“Days are going to be hard and you’re going to be mad, sad, frustrated. You just have to keep going and stay strong through those times,” he said.
It’s estimated fewer than 20 children in the U.S. have ever received a heart and liver transplant. It took more than 100 staff at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a family willing to donate organs to give Mark his new lease on life.