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Phoenix girl receives milestone liver transplant

PHOENIX — A 17-year-old Valley girl has received an early Christmas present.

On Dec. 6, Centennial High School senior Danielle Rodriguez became the first person in over 20 years to receive a pediatric liver transplant in Phoenix.

What’s made it even more special is that her transplant came from a 35-year-old woman who is still alive.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale removed part of the liver of Danielle’s godmother, who Rodriguez only identified as “Nikki.” Doctors then transported the donation to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where it was implanted into Rodriguez.

“It was scary at first,” said Rodriguez. “But I did have a good team with the doctors looking out for me and a good support group. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I was going to be on the day of surgery. I just knew I was in good hands here at PCH.”

Some of that support has come from her fellow students at Centennial High, who voted Rodriguez as this year’s homecoming queen.

Both patients are doing fine, and doctors said their livers will regenerate in about three weeks. Both have been released from the hospital. Nikki has returned home to Oklahoma.

Doctors said Rodriguez should live a normal life, and she hopes to resume running cross country. She was a member of Centennial’s team before the illness struck.

Rodriguez had been battling liver disease for nearly two years.

“Some days I would wake up and I was fine,” she said. “Then, the next day, I would wake up and couldn’t move, was in pain, or I just didn’t feel good and would have to stay home from school.”

Rodriguez said she’s greatfull to her godmother, who has helped to raise her since she was two.

Rodriguez is looking forward to graduating this year. She plans to go on to college, where she hopes to earn a nursing degree. She plans to return to PCH someday, working as a nurse.