SUCCESS STORY: Dr. Dante Allan Concejero (second from right) illustrates through photo slides how he and doctors from the Center for Liver Diseases of St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City performed the first successful adult liver transplant three weeks ago on Dr. Lulito Sabornido Jr. (inset). Also in photo are (from left) Dr. Ian Homer Cua, Dr. Juliet Gopes-Cervantes and Dr. Wilfredo Polido Jr.  (Photo by Philip Duquiatan)


MANILA — A team of St. Luke’s Medical Center has scored a first in local medical history with successful replacement of an adult liver.

The patient was 50-year-old Dr. Julito Sabornido Jr. who has spent practically his entire adult life serving poor Filipinos as a rural health physician in Misamis Oriental.

Although there have been a few adult liver transplants performed in the country, with one patient reportedly surviving for around six months, Sabornido is considered the first really successful case because he was the only recipient discharged after only three weeks without any medical or surgical complications.

The transplant surgery performed on him three weeks ago by the Center for Liver Diseases of St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City was made possible with the help of organizations and individuals who contributed expertise and funds for transplant surgery.

Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, head of the Center for Liver Diseases and director of the Institute of Digestive and Liver Diseases of St. Luke’s-Global City, said the 12-hour transplantation was performed on March 9 by the team composed of at least 60 physicians and nurses, with Dr. Allan M. Concejero, chief of Liver Transplant Surgery at St. Luke’s-Global City, as lead surgeon.

Dr. Sabornido was suffering from end-stage liver disease.

He had advanced liver cirrhosis which was caused by a chronic Hepatitis B infection, and subsequently developed primary liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma.

The replacement liver was taken from a brain-dead gunshot victim at Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

St. Luke’s said the liver transplant operation would have cost over P3 million, but “generous benefactors” chipped in since the patient did not have any financial means for the surgery.

Staff and friends of St. Luke’s promised to help generate funds.

P1 million

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), through chair Margarita Penson-Juico, pledged P1 million.

Several of Dr. Gopez-Cervantes’ patients also gave generous amounts, as well as pathologist Dr. Glenda Pua.

Even Dr. Sabornido’s colleagues in Misamis Oriental also passed the hat around.

The liver transplant team, consisting of 36 doctors, volunteered their services free of charge.

St. Luke’s Medical Center, in turn, pledged to waive all hospital bills in excess of what the benefactors had contributed.

Dr. Gopez-Cervantes said she is highly confident that with a powerhouse liver transplant team consisting of four liver transplant surgeons and two transplant hepatologists with a combined experience of over 1,000 liver transplants, “St. Luke’s can blaze a trail for liver transplantation in the Philippines.”