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Girl’s surgery was 100th pediatric liver transplant at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Jan. 31, 2024, 9:43 AM

liver transplant patient Lucy Scherba with her mother, Christian Scherba, and father, Chris Scherba, on the day of her surgery.
liver transplant patient Lucy Scherba with her mother, Christian Scherba, and father, Chris Scherba, on the day of her surgery.

It goes without saying that Lucy Scherba’s liver transplant was a milestone for her and her family.

Born with a congenital liver disease called biliary atresia, it was always known that the now 17-year-old would need a new liver.

What they didn’t know was that receiving it was also a record-setting surgery for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt as the 100th pediatric liver transplant.

“We have been very lucky so far that as a BA (biliary atresia) family, she has been able to lead a pretty normal life,” said Christian Scherba, Lucy’s mother. “Lucy was an anomaly — she needed a liver but was too healthy.

“As she was getting older, there were more indications that her miraculous old liver was showing signs it was getting tired. We were so excited to get that call. We had no idea that she was the 100th patient.”

Biliary atresia is a rare condition diagnosed in newborns in which the bile ducts of the liver become blocked and scarred, causing bile to build up in the liver. The damage leads to scarring and loss of liver tissue and function.

There is no cure for biliary atresia, and many children undergo a surgical procedure in which the blocked bile ducts outside the liver are replaced. This surgery is called the Kasai procedure.

At 2 months old, Lucy had the procedure. While it was successful, Lucy would still require a transplant at some point.

“It wasn’t if, but when, she’d need a liver transplant,” said her mother.

In August 2022, Lucy was listed for transplant. Thirteen months later her family got the call they hoped would come with a bit of icing on the cake — the transplant would be on the date they secretly wished for.

“Back in the summer (of 2023), we all had wrapped our brains around when Lucy would get her transplant,” recalls her mother. “We hoped for the fall so that she would not have to worry about spring with final exams and graduating. Then we started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if it happened on the 21st of September?”

And it did.

“Now the Earth Wind & Fire song ‘September’ is our family theme song,” she laughed. “Lucy loves all kinds of music, and it’s funny that it ended up happening!”

Since the transplant, Lucy has been on the road to recovery and looking forward to her final semester of high school.

“No 17-year-old wants their senior year interrupted, but she handled it with so much maturity and grace,” said her mother.

Now Lucy is preparing for college and wants to become a police officer. She has already spent time as a participant of the Citizen’s Police Academy and the Explorer’s Program with the Hendersonville Police Department.

“We feel so blessed that this liver came along. It was truly the perfect liver for Lucy. We are so grateful to the family who chose to donate their loved one’s organs and give that gift of life.”

The Pediatric Liver Transplant Program at Monroe Carell performed a record 17 liver transplants in 2023.

“Since opening the liver transplant program at Monroe Carell, we have seen steady growth in the number of pediatric liver transplants performed,” said Joseph Magliocca, MD, professor of Surgery, director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, and surgical director of the Pediatric Liver Transplant Program. “Our 100th liver transplant was an important milestone for the program and for the state of Tennessee.

“We have seen a steady number of patients referred for pediatric liver transplant evaluation as we are now being recognized as a major regional referral center for transplantation.”

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