Delicious Life

Enjoying family dinners and lunch with classmates is a new reality for a young patient who received the Pacific Northwest’s first intestine transplant at Children’s.

Alfred “Alfie” Bautista made history when he received the region’s first small intestine transplant at Children’s on January 4, 2007.

Because his intestines never functioned properly, the 8-year-old boy from Portland, Oregon, had been nourished through a process called total parenteral nutrition, or TPN. TPN is given through an intravenous line that is surgically inserted in a child’s chest, neck or groin.

Transplant coordinator Nicole Burns, RN, and patient Alfie Bautista, child

Transplant coordinator Nicole Burns, RN, in the playroom with Alfie Bautista.

Though it saves lives, young children dependent on TPN can eventually develop complications. These complications can necessitate transplantation of a small intestine or the combination of a liver and small intestine.

In Alfie’s case, his veins could no longer support his feeding lines, a complication known as loss of central venous access. When surgeons in Portland could not help Alfie, his gastroenterologist referred the family to Children’s. “The surgeons told us they could not find another place to insert Alfie’s line,” says his mom, Abie Bautista. “We felt hopeless until we went to Children’s, where the care for Alfie’s condition is very advanced.”

Children’s doctors were able to create feeding-line access for Alfie through a vein in his back, a solution that would keep Alfie nourished and alive until a donor intestine became available.

Alfie was fortunate to receive a small intestine from a child donor just a few months after he was added to the UNOS waiting list. “When we got the call from Children’s, I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?’” recalls his mom. “I wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly. We were excited and scared.”

The eight-hour transplant surgery performed by Dr. Jorge Reyes and Dr. Patrick Healey was a success. Before long, Alfie was eating popsicles, mashed potatoes and gravy and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “I really like strawberry jelly,” he says. “It’s sweet, and it’s fun to hear the seeds crunch in my mouth.”

“It’s so rewarding to watch Alfie enjoy food,” says his mom. “We are grateful to the transplant team for giving Alfie a normal life. It’s really amazing how things have changed. We don’t have to be scared of infection or worry about finding another place to insert a feeding line. Children’s has given Alfie the opportunity to be a happy, healthy child.”