*When Kasen Donerlson of Syracuse, New York, was born on Jan. 14, 2020, he spent several days in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) due to breathing issues and jaundice that doctors told his mom would improve as he got older, according to “Good Morning America.”
But Kasen’s health did not improve, and around two months after his birth, the infant was diagnosed with a severe case of biliary atresia, a condition in which bile ducts in and around the liver are scarred and blocked. He underwent an emergency surgery to repair his bile ducts, but the surgery proved unsuccessful, according to his mom, Mitayah Donerlson, who soon learned that her son would need a liver transplant.
Donerlson, who also cares for her 4-year-old son and 5-year-old niece, was able to get Kasen onto the transplant waiting list at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, about a five-hour drive from the family’s Syracuse home.
In November, as Kasen was waiting for a liver to become available, Donerlson said she, her significant other, her niece and Kasen all tested positive for COVID-19. Kasen spent around three days in the hospital but his only complication was a fever, according to Donerlson, who, along with her family members, did not suffer any complications from COVID-19.
Just two weeks later, in early December, Donerlson got the call she had been waiting months for — that a liver was available for Kasen.
“All I could do was cry. They were mommy tears and tears of joy. I was just so happy,” said Donerlson. “I always knew he was going to get a transplant — that was my faith — but to finally get that call and get that message that the surgery was scheduled and to have that relief from the burden on my shoulders dropped, it felt so good.”
When Kasen underwent the transplant in early January, he weighed only about 10 pounds more than his birth weight, according to Dr. George Mazariegos, chief of Pediatric Transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“He was more the weight of a 3-month-old and that is all because of the severity of his condition,” said Mazariegos, who added that Kasen received part of a liver from a young adult who died. “We were able to use the left portion of the liver which was the perfect size for a baby of Kasen’s size.”
Donerlson said she noticed an immediate difference in Kasen after the nearly 10-hour transplant procedure.
“His eyes have always been greenish and yellowish, his entire life, and he woke up from surgery with clear eyes,” she said. “I was overjoyed by seeing that.”
After spending much of his first life sick and hospitalized, Kasen is expected to have a long, normal and healthy life with his new liver, according to Maraziegos.
He celebrated his first birthday in the hospital on Jan. 14 and is already gaining weight. He was described by Donerlson as more alert and “perkier” post-transplant. She posted pics of the celebration on Facebook, adding “Words cant explain your Strength, Courage, and Determination. I am HONORED to be your Mother. Thank you for being my instructor. You’re my instructor to lessons that I could only learned from You. I Love You ❤ beyond measures… Keep showing the world 🌎 the impossible Are Possible.. HAPPY BIRTHDAY KASEN‼️”