Primary Children’s Hospital celebrates milestone after successfully completing 20 liver transplants in 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City reached a milestone in 2017 as doctors performed 20 successful liver transplants.

One of the liver donors was able to save two lives at once. The liver was split in two to save the lives of a little boy and a teenage girl.

“It’s the first time in our center, in our state, that a donor was able to help two of our children at the same time,” said Manuel Rodriguez-Davalos, director of kidney transplants for Primary Children’s Hospital.

Shayli McKen’s son, 2-year-old Brycen, was one recipient of the liver that was split in two.

“It was a long journey, of lots of stressful visits, hard times for our family; we live four hours away,” McKen said.

The McKen family lives in Afton, Wyoming and had to make weekly trips to Salt Lake City at Primary Children’s for Brycen’s appointments.

Plus, they could never go anywhere farther than four hours away from Salt Lake City because they were on the liver transplant list and had to be ready to go at any minute in case they got that transplant call.

“We were down [in Salt Lake City] every week getting Brycen’s belly drained because it would get so large,” McKen said.

Then they got a call from Primary Children's Hospital saying they had a liver for Brycen.

“It was so surreal,” McKen said. “We just weren’t expecting it at all. Even after seeing him come out, I was still like this is real.”

They had been waiting 20 months for a liver transplant, and now Brycen is finally starting to live like a toddler.

“He has been doing incredible,” McKen said. “He has no signs of rejection. He is just a busy, happy 2-year-old boy.”

The other half of the donor’s liver went to Bountiful’s 15-year-old Sophia Hansen. Both Sophia and Brycen separately share the same liver now.

“I am so thankful for the person who said yes to organ donation because they saved my life and another person’s life,” said Sophia Hansen in a video she sent the hospital for the special Liver Transplant Celebration event on Wednesday.

Doctors, surgeons, nurses, parents, and children patients—past and present—celebrated the hospital’s 20 successful liver transplants for 2017. It means Primary Children’s is now ranked ninth in the United States for number of transplants performed and second in the West. The celebration on Wednesday also lines up with National Donate Life Month.

To learn more about becoming an organ donor, click here.