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Donation Heart Ribbon

New Surgical Procedure Saves 2 Lives With 1 Liver

One donated liver saved the lives of two men in a first-of-its-kind surgical procedure performed in June at UCSD Medical Center, hospital officials announced today.

According to UCSD Health Sciences, the donated liver was given on June 27 to Rafael Bolanos, a San Diego man suffering from a rare genetic disorder - methylmalonic acidemia - that causes a toxic buildup of amino acids in his body. The 28-year-old faced going into a coma and suffering brain damage without the operation, doctors said.

Bolanos' original liver was given that same day to 62-year-old Ramona real estate developer James O'Gara, who had primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease caused by scarring of the bile ducts.

The body of O'Gara is capable of disposing of the amino acids, so the genetic disorder that plagued Bolanos won't affect him, according to doctors.

"Liver transplantation was the only solution for both patients," said Dr. Robert Gish, the UCSD chief of hepatology. "The challenge is that donated livers are in short supply, even for patients who desperately need transplantation."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 16,170 patients await a liver transplant each year in the United States. About 15 percent of patients on the transplant list will die while waiting for an organ to become available.

"I have had great results -- I feel good and my spirits are high," O'Gara said. "They saved my life and I am deeply grateful."

The so-called "domino" procedure is difficult but allows doctors to expand the number of patients who can be saved, said Dr. Alan Hemming, who performed the surgeries.

Bolanos was released from the hospital on Tuesday.

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