Jenna responded well to antibiotics, but another X-ray in January showed the mass was still there. A CT scan backed up the X-ray's findings, leading Norma Hopkins to worry her daughter was stricken with cancer.
Dr. Joseph Iocono, associated director of the minimally invasive surgery center at Kentucky Children's Hospital, turned to the Web for answers when it became obvious the mass wasn't a tumor. He posted some of the images of the mass on a pediatric surgery blog. A Philadelphia doctor suggested it might be a second liver, an extremely rare condition in which a second liver grows on top of the actual liver.
The second liver has its own blood supply and was attached to the larger liver by a type of umbilical cord.
"That kind of freaked me out," said Barry Hopkins. "But I was really glad it wasn't a tumor."
Needed to come out
Still, the liver needed to come out. If left untreated, there was a danger it would stifle Jenna's lung growth and eventually turn cancerous.
Iocono suggested a minimally invasive procedure in which the liver is cut up into small chunks and removed. Though similar operations have been used in recent years in appendectomies, Hopkins was the first patient to have the surgery conducted on a major organ.
The day of the surgery, Jenna assured her parents she'd be fine. Besides, she said, she liked going to the hospital, where she could hang out in the play areas and cuddle with a hospital-issued stuffed cat named Stitches. In the moments before doctors placed her under anesthesia, Jenna turned to her mother and said, "I'm brave, Mommy. I'm not going to cry."
Doctors spent more than three hours removing the second liver. Making small incisions on her chest, arm and back, doctors isolated the second liver and broke it up with medical instruments before removing it in small pieces.
Jenna's recovery included spending time in the family's garage blowing bubbles in an effort to get her right lung to grow. Nearly two months after the surgery, doctors say Jenna should have no long-term effects from the procedure.
Now Jenna is back playing soccer and hanging out with her classmates. She and her mother put together a book titled "Jenna's visit to UK Hospital."
The book is covered with princess stickers and pink Magic Marker dots, its pages are filled with pictures of her family and Iocono, who plans to write about the surgery for a medical journal.
The moral of Jenna's story can perhaps be found on a page that features a picture of the hospital with a circle and a slash through it.
"I hope I never have to go back in the hospital to stay again," she wrote. "I want to be healthy and strong."
The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com