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Infant Gets 8 New Donor Organs

Wearing a pink dress, an Italian baby girl who received eight new organs in a single transplant operation cried and cooed Friday as her mother held her in her arms and saw a brighter future for her daughter.

"Her biggest feeling is happiness," said a doctor interpreting for Monica di Matteo, 39, mother of 7 1/2-month-old Alessia di Matteo of Genoa, Italy.

The operation took place seven weeks ago but was not announced until Thursday. Mother and baby appeared at a news conference on Friday, and di Matteo said she was "hoping for a normal life" for Alessia.

The baby was born with smooth muscle disorder, which prevented normal function of her stomach, intestines and kidneys. The condition is fatal if left untreated.

She underwent an operation at Jackson Memorial Hospital in which she received a new liver, stomach, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, spleen and two kidneys. The organs were all taken from the same 7-month-old donor and transplanted as a unit, said Dr. Andreas Tzakis, the lead surgeon.

Doctors at Jackson Memorial said the surgery was the world's first eight-organ transplant. But other officials have said it is difficult to say if the hospital had set a record because other facilities record the stomach and intestine as one organ.

The 12-hour operation Jan. 31 was performed in a space in the girl's abdomen about the size of three fists, and the organs transplanted weighed less than 11 ounces, Tzakis said. Alessia was 6 months old at the time.

She is expected to remain in Miami several more weeks for observation. The risks include infection and organ rejection.

"We are not at ease at all about the baby's condition and we're going to be quite nervous for the first year," Tzakis said.

The hospital is one of the leading centers for multi-organ operations, having done nearly 100 in the past 10 years, Tzakis said. More than 80 percent of patients survive the first year after the surgery, he said.

Before the transplants, Alessia was hospital-bound with multiple infections, Tzakis said.

There was a problem with tissue rejection after the surgery, but doctors were able to get the complication under control.

Alessia now weighs about 13 pounds and is fed through a tube, but is out of the intensive care unit. Doctors are monitoring her intestines, which are most likely to develop infections.