Teenager's Blood Type Changed by Liver Transplant

Fifteen-year-old Demi-Lee Brennan is lucky to be alive: after a virus destroyed her liver, doctors gave her just 48 hours to live when a donated liver became available.

But not only that: after the transplant, Demi-Lee became the very first person in the world to take on the immune system and blood type of her donor!

With only hours to spare, Demi-Lee had a 10-hour operation and was started on a cocktail of immuno-suppressant drugs, the standard fare for transplant patients to ensure their bodies do not reject the donated organ.

Nine months later, when her condition worsened and she was readmitted, doctors were shocked to find that her blood type had changed. The head of hematology, Julie Curtin, said she was stunned when she realised Demi-Lee was now O-positive, rather than O-negative.

"I was convinced we had made a mistake, so we tested it again and it came up the same. Then we tested her parents and they were both O-negative, so it was confirmed that Demi absolutely had to have been O-negative."

Dr Curtin said Demi-Lee's blood then began to break down, requiring more medications.

"We then realised it was her own residual cells which were causing the problem and we needed to get rid of them. And that's when we knew we had to convince the doctors that Demi's immuno-suppressant drug regime should be stopped, rather than increased."

Link (Photo: Kate Geraghty)

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Thanks Rohin! That makes sense. Even in an emergency, I'd be surprised if they intentionally gave her an mismatched liver ... too many lawyers lurking about. What a good turn for her that her body adopted the new blood type, though. I assuming she'll still be on anti-rejection meds (for all the other issues besides Rh) forever, but that's better than the alternative....
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Sid the liver was completely HLA mis-matched (not just Resus factor). As far as I can ascertain (this and two other similar papers were covered in the latest New England Journal of Medicine) it was simply the first one that became available and as it was such an emergency she received a mis-matched cadaveric transplant.

I was going to suggest this to Neatorama actually (did a presentation last week about patients like Demi-Lee) but didn't think it would be that interesting. Whoops! Glad you found it Alex.
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I'm kinda surprised that someone who is Rh negative would be given a transplant from an Rh positive donor. They wouldn't be given transfused blood from them (although it works in the other direction OK). Anyone understand why she got an Rh+ liver?
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