UHealth Transplant Surgeons Perform Liver Transplant on 11-year-old whose Father is Set to Deploy

University of Miami Health System surgeons have performed a lifesaving liver transplant on a little girl who is about to say goodbye to her father. Eleven-year-old Victoria Rojas, whose father will be deployed overseas shortly, received word that she had a match just seven days after her father returned home from a previous deployment. She is now on the road to recovery.

Victoria, a fifth grader in Clearwater, Fla., began showing signs of jaundice in April 2016. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis 1 liver disease, which causes the body’s immune system to attack the liver, often leading to liver failure.

11 year old liver transplant patient
(Clockwise) Dr. Jennifer Garcia, Dr. Rodrigo Vianna, Dr. Dana Goldner, Dr. Akin Tekin, Jenaro Rojas, Victoria Rojas and Mary Ann Rojas

“The doctor told us that her liver was so bad it was equivalent to that of a person who had been drinking their whole life,” said Mary Ann Rojas, Victoria’s mother.

Victoria’s situation was particularly challenging, as her father, Jenaro Rojas, was overseas as a military contractor when the family received the diagnosis.

“I’ve traveled to five continents for years on dangerous missions,” said Jenaro. “But seeing my baby hurt and me feeling helpless has been the most pain I’ve ever endured. I felt useless being so far away.”

Victoria’s doctors in Clearwater referred her to the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, where they first met with University of Miami Health System pediatric hepatologist Jennifer Garcia, M.D.

“Upon first meeting Victoria, it was clear her autoimmune disease had progressed to end-stage liver disease,” said Garcia. “There was no doubt that she would need a lifesaving liver transplant in order to achieve a good long-term outcome.”

Victoria was prescribed immunosuppression and suffered heavy side effects, such as hallucinations and memory loss. Still, the family grew more united, particularly when Jenaro returned home from his deployment on March 13. Just seven days later, the family received the call that a compatible donor liver was available.

UHealth transplant surgeon Akin Tekin, M.D., led the five-hour surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital. And while the road to recovery will be a slow one, the family is grateful that Victoria will be able to return to school, play sports and have a normal childhood again.

“Every transplant is unique,” Tekin said, “but Victoria did very well during the surgery. She will now go back to a normal life. She’ll be like any other kid.”