Two young mothers will undergo surgery in China's first paired liver donation.
The mothers will donate part of their livers to each other's children in Beijing on Friday in the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces.
Li Wei, a liver transplant surgeon at the hospital, said it is the first liver transplant in China where donors have exchanged donations.
One of the donors, 23-year-old Luo Dan, gave birth to a son in November. However, the baby was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a kind of liver disease, 40 days after he was born.
In early January, the boy underwent surgery to treat the disease, but his liver worsened rapidly afterward and he needed a liver transplant, Luo said.
The boy's blood type is O. However, Luo's blood type is B, and her husband's is A, which means they are not perfect donors for their son.
"Without any treatment, children with the disease usually die from cirrhosis within two years," Li said. "Theoretically, it is possible to conduct a liver transplant between people with different blood types, but the result is not as good as a transplant within the same blood type," Li said.
Luo began to search for a donor, offering part of her liver in exchange.
"I would rather try to find a way to save my son than sit here waiting for a donor to come," said Luo, who brought her son to the hospital in early May and has been waiting for the operation ever since.
"Two kids who needed the transplant have passed away since we've been waiting in the hospital."
"I didn't hesitate to say yes"
"I didn't hesitate to say yes"
According to Li, there are about 30 children waiting for liver transplant surgeries in the hospital, most without a donor.
"Lack of donors has always been a bottleneck in liver transplants," he said. "Usually it takes three to five months to find a donor."
Finally, Luo found Yin Chunlin in an online chat group for parents whose children have the same problem.
Yin, 22, joined the chat group after giving birth to a son with the same liver disease in January.
Yin's husband was found to have liver problems a year ago and cannot donate.
Though Yin's type O blood allows her to donate her own liver tissue to her son, she agreed to provide it to Luo's baby after talking to Luo online and over the telephone.
"I didn't hesitate to say yes to Luo," said Yin, who brought her baby to the hospital on Aug 26. "By doing this we can save two children."
"Only mothers of such babies can feel what we feel," she said.
The surgeon Li believed Yin has made a reasonable choice.
Yin can donate her liver tissue to her son, but the transplant will be more successful if the donor also has type B blood, he said.
Current regulations stipulate that people can only donate organs to their spouses and relatives, or people who can prove they are treated like family members.
However, there have been organ exchanges between unrelated people.
In 2008, family donors of two uremia patients exchanged donations to match the patients' blood types in a hospital in Hainan province.
Responding to the controversy, organ transplant authorities in the Ministry of Health came to the conclusion that what the two families did was legal.