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Toddler receives first altruistic liver transplant at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

A living donor gave her a second chance at life.

ATLANTA — At only one-year-old, Ashtyn Rainey has been through a lot. 

Born with a rare liver condition called biliary atresia, the leading cause for liver transplantation in children, Rainey was hospitalized at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, causing her to be put on the liver transplant list at only 6-months-old.

"Waiting for the news that a liver was available while watching my baby's health deteriorate was emotionally draining," her mom, Ashalana Greer, told 11Alive. "It was really hard."

But Rainey is also lucky. She was a match for a living donor who decided to anonymously donate part of their liver. The gift of life came at a time when she desperately needed the transplant. 

"There are no words to describe the amount of joy I felt in that moment," Greer said of her reaction to hearing the news. 

Rainey's surgery also marks the first altruistic liver transplant at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, a medical milestone for the hospital. 

“Since the program began in 1990, we’ve performed 625 pediatric liver transplants. Children’s also has one of the shortest wait times in the country for children needing a liver transplant, with an average wait time of two months," Joseph Magliocca, MD, surgical director of the Children’s Liver Transplant Program, said. "The incredible generosity of an unrelated liver donor allowed us to get Ashtyn the transplant she desperately needed, quicker than it normally would have taken."

Dr. Magliocca hopes Rainey's story will pave the wave for more donors to come forward. Not only do living donors help saves lives like little he, he said, but altruistic donors help take patients off the transplant list allowing the very limited source of deceased donor organs to go to patients that don’t have a living donor available.

Other benefits include faster recovery for recipients and improved outcomes. According to Children's, recipients of living donor livers have an average 5% better long-term survival rate than recipients of deceased donor livers.

Rainey has since been discharged from Children’s, and her mom said their family is extremely grateful for this second chance.

"My baby gets to live," Greer said. "What this donation means for me and my family is that Ashtyn gets a second chance at life."

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