Woman makes history as first-ever altruistic liver donor at University of Colorado Hospital

Donor gives liver to help save one-year-old boy
Posted at 9:56 PM, Nov 19, 2018

A woman made history by giving up part of her liver to save a complete stranger.

Now, one year later, she's meeting the young boy who received the transplant.

Rebecca LaSalle is the first-ever altruistic liver donor at the University of Colorado Hospital, meaning she donated the organ to a stranger.

While altruistic donors are fairly common when it comes to donating kidneys because humans have two, the liver is a different story.

Doctors had to split the organ in two in order to save a 1-year-old boy.

Rebecca's liver has grown back and is fully functional.

"It's a big commitment,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret, chief of transplant surgery at University of Colorado Hospital. “It's a big operation."

Dr. Pomfret and LaSalle are breaking ground in the medical world.

"She is the perfect donor,” Dr. Pomfret said. “She's young, she's healthy, she's in great shape."

LaSalle said she experienced some discomfort and pain, but doesn't think anybody should suffer in this world. 

That stranger who was suffering was a precious 1-year-old boy named Manolo.

"He is the cutest little butterball,” LaSalle said.

Now a year post-surgery, Manolo is 2-years-old and doing great. He's creating art, he's eating and he is on the move. Manolo's transplant was performed across the street from UCHealth at Children's Hospital Colorado.

His life may not be so great if it weren't for LaSalle.

“It feels really good," she said.

Dr. Pomfret said they had to split the liver for the donation, and that always carries a risk. 

"And for anyone to do this – it’s very unusual and really extraordinary," Dr. Pomfret said.

Only a handful have ever been performed in the entire United States. 

For LaSalle, and most healthy donors, it should have no impact on her life moving forward.

“So, I have no impairments from here on out for the rest of my life,” she said. “My liver has grown back. I can still do everything that I did before. It's not just the feeling of helping someone else out and possibly saving that person's life. There were so many parts of it that were a great experience. Every single person that I met along the way."

And the doctor said her liver is normal now and looks great. 

“I don't want to say I've changed the world,” LaSalle said. “I think I've changed a couple people's worlds."