Back to karate after beating liver transplant odds


Five-year-old Finn Green will have a special appreciation for his yellow karate belt when he scores it on Feb. 22. That’s because he already won the biggest battle yet faced in his young life – beating a rare and complicated liver tumor and averting a liver transplant last year.

A persistent stomachache last July was the only clue that anything was wrong with Finn, said his mother, Stephanie, a physician in Long Beach. Early word suggested that he picked up a tummy bug at school. While initial tests showed nothing, Finn’s stomachache just wouldn’t go away. After a series of tests and ultrasounds, a Southern California doctor discovered that Finn had a malignant nodule in his liver and a liver tumor so big that it threatened to rupture the thin membrane that covers it. Had the membrane ruptured, it could have proved fatal, Stephanie said.

The family was advised that Finn would likely need a liver transplant. But, not so fast. In an evaluation 400 miles north, the transplant center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford turned that diagnosis upside down. They decided Finn did not need a liver transplant after all. Based on a super-high tech, three-dimensional CAT scan that showed Finn’s liver in greater detail, surgeon Waldo Concepcion, MD, concluded that he and his team would be able to remove the tumor safely – leaving Finn with plenty of his own liver and helping him avoid a lifetime of transplant therapy.

After the tumor removal surgery and a few rounds of chemotherapy, Finn is back to his energetic self, and is ready to karate-kick his way to victory.

“It was the scariest situation, and Dr. Concepcion just turned it around,” Stephanie said.