Justin Kibler is tall, strong and lean. At 18, he’s already a competitive rodeo star and an active member of Future Farmers of America (FFA). Looking at him, “he’s the picture of health.” But what can’t be seen, just by looking, is that just four years ago, Justin developed an extremely rare and dangerous disease called midaortic syndrome (MAS). And he needed special care that no one in his entire home state of Arizona could provide.
Midaortic syndrome is characterized by a narrowing of the parts of the aorta (the main artery that delivers oxygen-rich blood throughout the body), running through the chest and abdomen. MAS causes severe high blood pressure and can also significantly damage the brain, kidneys, intestines and limbs. Untreated, the disease is debilitating and life-threatening.
We last saw Kenslie Shealy in the spring of 2015, as she was settling back into life at home in South Carolina after a long stay at Boston Children’s Hospital. Kenslie, now 4, had emergency surgery for midaortic syndrome (MAS), a rare condition that affects the heart and kidneys. Untreated, the condition can lead to damage in the brain, intestines and limbs.
She recovered well after her first surgery, performed by kidney and liver surgeon Dr. Heung Bae Kim, but her parents, Lori and Calvin, knew she wasn’t “out of the woods” quite yet. Kenslie would eventually need a follow-up surgery to further expand her aorta. She needed to grow a bit more first, so her doctors didn’t set a date for her second procedure.
“They thought she was going to have to wait longer, until she was about 7 or 10 years old, but she’s already outgrowing the stents they put in last winter,” says Lori. “So they scheduled her for September. It’s a good sign. It means she’s healthy, developing well and was ready for it before they thought she would be.”
This summer, while Kenslie played outside and swam as much as possible, her parents planned for what they hoped will be their last multi-week stay in Boston for some time. …
Dawn Cavanaugh carefully and calmly navigates the roads of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, with a bus full of kids, bringing them to school and safely back home again at the end of each day. As a bus driver, it’s the methodical beat of her everyday life.
Last year, as a mom, she was navigating a very different journey, one in which she did everything in her power — including giving a portion of her liver — to bring her daughter Lydia home safely.
“As far as I’m concerned, my role in this life is to care for my kids,” says Dawn. “And if I have to give a part of myself to do that, that’s all there is to it.”
An organ transplant is a life-changing event extending far beyond the operating room, the clinics and the hospital walls. Read about five children, one young adult and their families, whose lives were forever changed by the Pediatric Transplant Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Lydia’s liver transplant, a mom’s gift
Dawn Cavanagh gave her daughter life twice — first when she was born and, again, when she gave 13-year-old Lydia a piece of her liver last summer. The donor-approval process, which occurs with Boston Children’s partner Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, required hours of medical screening, including an interview with a social worker, who asked if Dawn expected anything in return for being Lydia’s liver donor. “And I said, ‘Of course I expect something,’” explains Dawn. “’I expect her to live a long and happy life, and I expect her to be with me for a long time.’”
More than a year after her liver transplant, for Lydia’s birthday, Aug. 1, the Cavanagh family went on Lydia’s Make-A-Wish trip, a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. “We had so much fun,” says Dawn. “She’s a happy kid. She has dreams. She wants to be a transplant nurse, and she wants to work on 10 South at Boston Children’s Hospital.” …