Susan calls her 13 year-old son’s experience with hepatoblastoma – a rare pediatric
liver cancer – a “life-altering experience.”
In December of 2009, she brought Elliott to the Fairview Ridges Emergency Center for severe abdominal pain,
which she thought was appendicitis. Instead, the physician found an 11-centimeter
mass on his liver. “As a parent, it was terrifying,” she says. Three days later,
Elliott underwent surgery at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.
Elliott’s care team – pediatric surgery, pediatric oncology, organ transplantation
& gastroenterology, nephrology, imaging services, infectious disease specialists,
occupational & physical therapy, nutritional services, palliative & home-care services,
pharmacy services, child & family life specialist and countless other nurses & health
professionals – were “top-shelf” people.
Unfortunately, that first surgery was just the beginning. Elliott’s cancer returned
to his liver within a matter of weeks. The cancer could be seen as many, many spots
on his PET/CT scan. It became evident that a new, transplanted liver would give
him the best chance for survival because the therapy would likely not overcome the
Elliott successfully completed four rounds of chemo with four separate drugs (March
– June 2010), he was deemed medically stable for surgery, and there was no evidence
of metastasis of the cancer. Amazingly, on the ideal day he was eligible to receive
a transplant, a cadaver donor match became available. Although the surgery went
well, Elliott suffered an immediate complication (sepsis) and remained in a coma
for nearly a week. As a result of the sepsis, a hepatic artery thrombosis (HAT)
– or a clot – formed on the vessel connected to his newly transplanted liver starving
the organ of necessary blood flow. The new liver began to deteriorate meaning Elliott
would need to be relisted for transplant.
Just 13 days from his first transplant, a new match was found and he was successfully
transplanted again (June 24th 2010). Following a brief recovery from the surgery,
Elliott began and completed two more rounds of chemotherapy.
Fortunately, the cancer is not detectable in Elliott today. He has gained back 20
pounds, he participates in sports, traveled to Europe with his family on a Make-A-Wish trip to see castles, and he even made the 7th
grade honor roll after missing many months of school.