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9-year-old's body may be rejecting donated liver

A 9-year-old Bradenton girl who underwent a lifesaving liver transplant eight years ago will undergo tests today to determine if her body is rejecting the liver.

Valerie Tokajer was flown to Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning after results from a liver biopsy performed last week indicated that her body is severely rejecting the donated organ.

Doctors hope to stabilize Valerie and shock her body into accepting the liver, said Valerie's father, Bradenton police Capt. William Tokajer.

Doctors at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg removed a portion of Valerie's liver last week but could not determine a reason for the rejection. Their work was sent to Pittsburgh, and on Monday, doctors called the Tokajers "very concerned" about the results.

Tokajer said the Pittsburgh physicians, who specialize in liver transplantation, will analyze results from blood tests and a biopsy to determine a course of action.

"They may try some new anti-rejection drugs," Tokajer said. "They feel pretty comfortable that they will be able to get her back under control."

Tokajer said doctors do not consider Valerie's situation life-threatening.

"It is very scary and she definitely has some serious problems," Tokajer said. "But she's in good hands. I know God is watching her."

Tokajer said talk about a second transplant is nonexistent for his family.

"She's not being prepped for one. (Doctors) are not even to that point," Tokajer said. "They are working on the premise that they can get her under control, and that's what we're believing in."

Thea Tokajer accompanied her daughter to the same Pittsburgh hospital where Valerie underwent the lifesaving liver transplant.

Blood tests were performed Tuesday on Valerie, William Tokajer said.

"(Thea Tokajer) said it's a comfortable feeling, being back there again," William Tokajer said. "You know that doctors are doing everything that they can."

Tokajer said it would be at least 30 days before Valerie can return home.

It will take time for tests to be analyzed, and doctors want to monitor Valerie and may ultimately administer blood tests every other day as part of an outpatient program, he said.

Valerie began exhibiting signs of liver rejection about a month ago and Thea Tokajer noticed that her daughter appeared jaundiced. Routine blood tests at All Children's indicated that her body was not accepting the liver, and a biopsy was performed June 15.

William Tokajer said doctors at All Children's did the best they could in trying to stabilize Valerie.

"Doctors at our hospital here can try things that they're told about. (Pittsburgh physicians) specialize in working with transplant patients every single day. That's their lives."

After word spread that Valerie was ill, business owners in the community, which raised more than $220,000 toward her transplant, began organizing another benefit.

Although the Tokajers have insurance to cover much of Valerie's medical costs, organizer Delouis Simmons said Valerie will need medication and treatment for the rest of her life. She wants to raise money for any future costs that insurance does not cover.

Simmons, a Bradenton hair stylist and friend of the Tokajers, and the Lady Angler Fishing Club for Women are organizing a fishing tournament Saturday on Coquina Beach.