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Father qualifies as liver donor for ailing child
By Elliot Ferguson

The parents of adopted twin girls from Vietnam who both need life-saving liver donations have had half their prayers answered.

The girls’ father, Michael Wagner, found out Wednesday that he qualified to donate a portion of his liver to one of the girls.

The surgery is to take place within two weeks.

“That is amazing news,” Johanne Wagner, the girls’ mother, said Thursday morning.

Binh and Phuoc Wagner, 3, suffer from Alagille syndrome, a genetic disease that affects the liver, heart, kidney and other systems of the body.

The condition has attacked their livers and caused abnormalities in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. The result is a buildup of bile in the liver that prevents it from working properly to remove waste materials from the bloodstream.

Doctors at Toronto General Hospital, where the transplant is to take place, will decide which twin is in the best medical position to accept their father’s donation.

A donor for the second twin remains to be found.

While she is happy her husband qualified to donate his liver, Johanne Wagner also knows that until the transplant is complete, it could be called off at any moment.

Doctors will start working on Michael Wagner a couple of hours before the receiving twin is brought into the operating room.

Johanne Wagner said if surgeons discover anything unexpected or unusual after they open him up, they can call off the procedure. Plus, she added, there is no guarantee that the transplanted organ will be accepted by the girl’s body.

“We’re not out of the woods by any means,” she said. “We’re just trading one set of issues for another.”

With one donor lined up, Johanne Wagner said efforts can now be directed at finding a donor for the other twin.

“(Doctors) are hoping to do them very close together. They are really trying to minimize the impact on the family as much as possible,” said Johanne Wagner, who now must make arrangements for the family’s seven other children.

Their three oldest daughters plan to be in Toronto for the day of the surgery and Johanne Wagner said she would keep the twin not receiving her father’s liver with her and close to her sibling.

“I refuse to separate them,” she said. “They’ve been together since Day 1. They’ve always been together and I think that is what has kept them alive. Had they been separated, those girls wouldn’t be here anymore.

“Plus, I can’t see myself having one in surgery and being separated from the other one when they need to cuddle.”

A living donor must be a healthy adult between 18 and 60 years old, be in good shape with a body mass index of less than 35 and have a compatible blood type group — in the twins’ case either type A or O.

To qualify, living donors must go through a rigorous series of tests to determine if they are physically and medically able to donate.

The Wagners have set up a Facebook page, called Liver Transplants for our Vietnamese Twin Girls, to raise attention to the issue and encourage people to get screened as potential donors.

More information about live liver donation can be found online at the University Health Network website, www.uhn.ca/mot, and at the Ontario government’s Trillium Gift of Life Network website, www.giftoflife.on.ca.
Unrelated directed kidney donor in 2003, recipient and I both well.
626 time blood and platelet donor since 1976 and still giving!
Elected to the OPTN/UNOS Boards of Directors & Executive, Kidney Transplantation, and Ad Hoc Public Solicitation of Organ Donors Committees, 2005-2011
Proud grandpa!


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