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The Greatest Gift

Woman Donates Part of Her Liver to Co-Worker's Daughter

A day after Catherine Ortiz learned that her co-worker Coral Grinage's daughter needed a liver transplant, she sent a text message offering to become a donor. "I was speechless," said Grinage, mother of 11-month-old Raquel Allen, who was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a congenital condition that affects the liver's ability to secrete bile. For Ortiz, being a mom to a 15-month-old helped her make the decision. "I would hope to God that someone would do that for my son," she said.

Catherine Ortiz, Melvin Allen, Raquel Allen and Coral Grinage Catherine Ortiz, left, donated part of her liver to 11-month-old Raquel Allen, pictured here with her father, Melvin Allen, and her mother, Coral Grinage. Ortiz and Grinage are co-workers at a Chicago pharmacy.

On August 25, Ortiz donated part of her liver to little Raquel during an 8-hour living-donor liver transplant procedure performed at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. Two days after the surgery, Ortiz went home to recover. On September 5, Raquel celebrated her first birthday at Comer Children's.

Nearly 20 years ago, the nation's first successful living-donor liver transplant was performed by physicians from University of Chicago Medicine. Teresa Smith donated part of her liver to her 9-month-old daughter, Alyssa. In October, Alyssa, Teresa, and the surgical team that performed the operation will reunite at a conference to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the landmark operation.

September 2009

Follow Raquel's Transplant Journey & View Video

The University of Chicago Medicine's Science Life blog followed baby Raquel's story. Meet liver donor Ortiz, Raquel and her parents, and University of Chicago transplant surgeon J. Michael Millis, MD, in a three-part series of blog posts and video about Raquel's transplant journey (video also featured below):

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