KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An incredible display of teamwork at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

An 18-year-old is Kansas City’s first pediatric patient to undergo a dual heart and liver transplant.

The operation happened in October 2022, when the patient was 17 years old. He was born with a rare genetic condition that caused him to go into cardiac failure. The teen had an LVAD device (which helps pump blood to the heart) implanted two to three months before the historic operation.

“It was a labor of love. There was a lot too it, but it paid off,” said Dr. Aliessa Barnes of the 14-hour operation.

She’s a heart transplant physician and the co-director of the Solid Organ Transplant Center. She, along with more than 30 others, worked to place the teenager’s new heart and liver.

Only a handful of U.S. hospitals perform this type of procedure, according to Dr. Bhargava Mullapudi, a pediatric transplant surgeon with Children’s Mercy.

“There are very few institutions in the country such as Stanford, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and now Children’s Mercy that are doing ‘en bloc,’ which means the heart and liver are connected, and both the organs are put in at the same time,” Mullapudi said.

Most of the time, a patient requiring a heart and liver transplant has one transplant done several hours before the other.

“There are so many things that, if they were to go wrong, could lead to really catastrophic outcomes. Every little part needs to be perfect,” added Barnes.

She and Mullapudi spent more than two months laying out how two different teams could work together as one.

“Where does the bypass machine sit? Where does the liver equipment sit? Where do the cardiac surgeons stand?,” added Mullapudi.

It had to be choreographed, much like a ballet.

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“You want to get the organs into your patient and have blood flow returning as quickly as you can,” Mullapudi said.

The operation was a success. The 17-year-old went home two weeks later, although, there’s still a chance his body could reject the organs, so he’ll need to follow-up with Children’s Mercy. But so far, he’s doing well.

Now, the hospital hopes to help other pediatric patients in the area so that they don’t have to travel out-of-state for care.

“To see that magic come together, and see a patient who felt terrible, walk out of the hospital a new person with a lease on life, it’s a miracle. I feel blessed to see miracles,” Barnes said.