4-year-old receives first kidney transplant in Oklahoma performed by robot

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OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma girl made medical history in this state by becoming the first recipient of a kidney transplant performed by a robot.

“Why are you getting this surgery?”

“So I can go to Disneyland.”

If only life were as innocent as it is through the eyes of a child.

“I named my kidney ‘rocket blaster,’” four-year-old Laney Culpepper said. “I just thought of it.”

Laney was born with a rare genetic disorder.

Laney wasn’t acting like herself, so her mom took her to the doctor for blood work.

“They called and said you need to get to Children’s like now,” Zoey Culpepper said. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to go get some clothes.’ They said no you need to get there now.”

After a few blood transfusions they learned Laney was in stage one renal failure.  She immediately started dialysis and was on a transplant list for about a year until she underwent Oklahoma’s first robotically assisted kidney transplant that saved her life. She no longer needed dialysis.

She named that, too: “Womp-womp,” she said.

“She, unfortunately, had this disorder that she was born with along with renal failure for which she was on dialysis which means she was connected to a machine. She called it womp-womp, because that’s the sound the machine made. Womp- womp. So we told her she’d get a kidney, and she said, ‘Now will womp-womp go away,’” kidney transplant surgeon  Anthony Sebastian said.

Laney’s surgery went perfectly. The robot was controlled from a distance dissecting, dividing, tying, stapling, and removing the kidney from the adult donor and placing it in Laney.

“We had a big kidney in a little small 15 kilogram child which we had to find a place for,” Sebastian said. “We found a place to put it. As you know, we don’t take out the old diseased kidney, we have to find a new place for it. So the extra kidney was placed on the right side, and right from the time it went in it was a match from the start.”

Without it, Laney may not have beaten the odds. Doctors say they lose a lot of Oklahoma children who are waiting for an organ transplant.

“It’s crazy. It’s history, ya know?” her mom said. “She was happy to get rid of ‘womp womp’, and now she has got this kidney and we asked her ‘So what are you going to call this kidney?’ And she said, ‘Rocket blaster.'”

“He blasts the stuff out of me,” Laney said. “They put the kidney in. Well, I didn’t even feel anything when they cut me open.”

That Disneyland trip is now happening, and Laney wants to meet Minnie Mouse. The Make A Wish Foundation is going see to that. There have been many special moments in Laney ’s life, but discharge day from Children’s Hospital may be one of the most memorable.

“It’s my dad’s birthday today, and my dad doesn’t like cake,” she said.

What a gift life truly is.

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