Hannah Warren, 2, was born without a windpipe. Doctors in Korea told her parents there was no hope for her survival. But now, thanks to groundbreaking surgery at Children's Hospital of Illinois, she has a trachea, grown from her own stem cells.
"We're extremely blessed and humbled by it," said Darryl Warren, Hannah's father. "And if she can help another child
with a similar type of condition with stem cells, that is the kind of help she can offer in the future."
Doctors extracted cells from Hannah's bone marrow and grew them around a plastic frame in a lab. Within a week, the cells multiplied to form a windpipe. A surgical team implanted the new trachea during a nine-hour procedure April 9.
"We're basically taking her own tissue and encouraging the body to fix itself," Dr. Mark Holterman said.
Doctors say unlike donor organs, using Hannah's own stem cells greatly reduces the likelihood her body will reject the implant.
"This is much more elegant, and much safer. So if you could look into the future, this is the future of organ transplant," Dr. Richard Pearl said.
Hannah was able to taste food for the first time ever-- a few licks of a lollipop. She faces extensive rehabilitation and more surgeries to help her eat and speak normally. And in the future, she may also need a larger windpipe as her body grows.
"I haven't counted them, but it will be over 1,000 days to finally get Hannah home," her dad said.
Hannah has spent her whole life in a hospital in Seoul. Her family hopes to bring her home for the first time in a few months. They plan to celebrate her third birthday in August.
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