Kelowna News

Father undergoing surgery to save one of his 3-year-old twin daughters

Twins Binh Wagner, left, and Phuoc have Alagille syndrome which affects the function of their livers.
Image Credit: Wagner family/Canadian Press

TORONTO - A Kingston, Ont., father underwent an operation Tuesday to give part of his liver to one of his ailing twin daughters.

Michael Wagner's three-year-old twins — Phuoc and Binh — have Alagille syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the liver, heart and other organs, and without a liver transplant the girls would die.

Doctors decided which of the twins would receive the liver transplant after the family said it could not make the heart-wrenching decision — their story often compared to the film "Sophie's Choice".

"It's a GO! Phuoc in the OR to receive the best gift a father could give — a liver," reads a post on the family's Facebook page, which is managed by the girls' mother, Johanne Wagner.

Hours later, another Facebook post said the surgery for Michael Wagner at the Toronto General Hospital went well.

"Daddy out of surgery and well," the post reads.

"The portion of his liver has been transferred across the street."

Phuoc Wagner will undergo surgery later on Tuesday at the nearby SickKids hospital, according to a spokeswoman for the hospital.

The two operations would take 18 to 22 hours, said the spokeswoman, adding that doctors were expected to provide an update on the surgeries Wednesday morning.

The Wagners, who have nine kids, are still waiting for a liver donor for their other daughter.

Gary Levy, who runs the liver donor program at the Toronto General Hospital, said donors can give up to 70 per cent of their liver, which will regrow to its full size, but that a living donor can only donate once.

Johanne Wagner said last week that she hadn't been tested yet because she needed to be there for the kids if something went wrong with her husband's surgery.

"She's our reserve," Michael Wagner said during a recent interview with The Canadian Press at the family's home.

"Part of it is that we knew we could only do one parent at a time and that I would have to recover before she went in."

Levy said that interest in donating a liver has jumped because of the girls' story and he hopes to find a match for Binh soon.

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