Two years ago, a 9-year-old Baltimore gymnast named Khloe Cox was rising through the competitive ranks, winning awards and following in the footsteps of her hero: Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.
But all that changed one day in 2018, when her parents got a call from her coach. Khloe had fallen ill with a fever and abdominal pain. The young athlete turned out to have a rare stage IV neuroendocrine tumor that had started in her pancreas and spread to her liver.
Khloe needed a dual liver-pancreas transplant, but given her age and the complexity of the surgery, only a handful of surgeons in the world could perform it. Among them was Srinath Chinnakotla, clinical director of pediatric transplantation at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
After treatment to stabilize the cancer at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and a year on the transplant list at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Khloe was referred to Chinnakotla by her oncologist in Iowa. The Cox family met the surgeon in January 2020, and in August Khloe, now 11, underwent the 12-hour transplant.
The surgery was a resounding success. But the Cox family’s joy was tempered by the knowledge that Khloe’s donor had been a 4-year-old.
“For another family to make a decision in the midst of their grief—there are no words,” says Khloe’s mother, LaWanda Cox. “It saved Khloe’s life. The way that the organs are working for Khloe—it was a perfect match.”
Read the original story on the M Health Fairview blog.