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Since Kasin Kelly was born, his mother, Alexis Wilson, felt that something just wasn’t right. Diagnosed with jaundice at birth, he was a healthy, happy baby in general, but the yellowing in the whites of his eyes never cleared up. In fact, by the time he was eight months old, the yellow was more intense. Alexis mentioned her concerns about this at every visit with Kasin’s community-health pediatrician, but the doctor said it wasn’t uncommon in breastfed infants.
Then when he was eight months old, she noticed changes in his eating, bowel movements, and activity level that raised alarms. She took him to a different pediatrician, who was deeply concerned and immediately referred her to Children’s National Hospital. Kasin underwent a series of tests and a few hours later, Alexis got the news that changed both their lives.
“The tests showed that he had biliary atresia and was in liver failure,” she says. “I was in complete shock and heartbroken. Then the doctor told me Kasin’s liver failure was very advanced and he needed a liver transplant. My first thought was, ‘What do I need to do to be his donor?’”
Biliary atresia is a rare condition that develops before birth. It causes a blockage in the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the intestines. The blockage can cause serious damage to the liver and, if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis and death. Biliary atresia is the most common reason for liver transplants in children in the U.S.
Alexis and Kasin were referred to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, where Children’s National pediatric patients needing liver or kidney transplants are referred, and began the process of evaluation for a living donor liver transplant for Kasin.
“A living donor transplant is one of the best ways for a patient to quickly get the transplant he or she needs. That’s true not only for pediatric patients but also for adult patients, especially if the reason for the transplant is to treat liver cancer,” explains Juan Francisco Guerra, MD, director of the Living Liver Donor Transplant Program at MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute and one of the surgeons who performed Alexis’ donor surgery. “Living donor transplants also improve long term outcomes and shorten the recovery period for the recipient, in part because these organs tend to be of higher quality and there is no long wait on the waiting list for an organ to become available.”
Alexis donated 27% of her liver to her son, staying in the hospital for three days after her surgery. Over time, the donated liver portion will grow to full size in Kasin and Alexis’ liver will regrow to its original size. Today, thanks to his mother’s donation, Kasin is a healthy, active two-year-old and the light of his mother’s life. And Alexis has recovered well from her donation surgery.
“Each day, when I look at my son, I’m so grateful that I was able to be his donor,” Alexis says. “My decision to be a living donor is something I’ll never regret. I felt safe during the entire process. The team at MedStar Georgetown were awesome. They love Kasin and we truly love them! Without them, I could have lost my son. I’m very thankful for everyone on the team and the care they provided for us.
“If you decide to be a living liver donor, you will make a great impact on someone’s life,” she adds. “It’s a gift that the recipient will cherish for the rest of their life.”
To request an appointment with the living liver donor team, call 202-444-1360 or visit MedStarGeorgetown.org/LivingDonor.