Stories about: liver failure

Saving six: Life before and after transplant

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

Living donor liver transplant recipientDawn 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.” 

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‘What a difference a year makes’: Catching up with liver brothers Brent and Malambo

Liver Transplant recipients - Brent and Malambo
Brent and Malambo

We are honored U.S. News & World Report has named Boston Children’s Hospital the #1 pediatric hospital in the U.S. As we celebrate this honor, we’re reflecting on some of the greatest children’s stories ever told — stories of the patients and families whose lives touch ours and inspire us.

Two of those patients are “liver brothers” Malambo Mazoka-Tyler and Brent Groder.

Malambo and Brent are, by all standards, oceans apart.

Zambian-born Malambo is nearly two. His world, one year after a life-saving, split-liver transplant, is all about walking and talking, laughing and dancing and figuring out why the sky is blue and why cows moo — a typical toddler.

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Liver brothers: Two lives linked by split-liver transplant

Brent and Malambo - Liver transplant recipientsIt is late in the evening on June 14, 2015. Kern Tyler and his wife Pasina Mazoka-Tyler sit in a waiting room at Boston Children’s Hospital, while their 11-month-old son Malambo Mazoka-Tyler, born with a life-threatening disease called biliary atresia, undergoes a liver transplant.

To arrive at this moment, they have traveled vast distances, visited multiple hospitals, sought the advice and counsel of numerous doctors, packed all their belongings and moved more than 7000 miles from their home in Zambia, Africa, to Boston, Massachusetts.

He had picked out what he wanted to wear, where he wanted to be buried, and he told me, ‘My soul is all I have left. If I don’t have a liver, I am going to die.’

Yet, they call this journey a blessing.

In the same room, a family from Maine patiently waits, while their son is prepped for his liver transplant.

Born with cystic fibrosis, 18-year-old Brent Groder is battling end-stage liver disease. Just two months earlier, he was planning his funeral, recalls his mom Charlene Newhall. “He had picked out what he wanted to wear, where he wanted to be buried, and he told me, ‘My soul is all I have left. If I don’t have a liver, I am going to die.’”

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Meet Phoebe: Swimmer, soccer player, gymnast and liver transplant recipient

Phoebe RootWhether she’s tearing across the soccer field, sticking a near perfect landing in a gymnastics routine or training for an upcoming swim meet, Phoebe Root is always on the go. As her father, David, shuttles his active 12-year-old daughter to and from meets, games and competitions, he almost can’t believe it’s the same girl who, at 8 weeks old, was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening liver disorder.

“Looking back at how sick she was, I never would have guessed our lives would end up feeling so… normal,” says David, as he drove his daughter to an afternoon swim practice. “When she was sick, we were so focused on the details of her illness that we couldn’t see the big picture. Now that we’re living in that picture, and it feels great.”

Shortly after her birth, Phoebe was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disorder that prevents bile ducts in the liver from draining correctly, causing a potential fatal buildup of toxins in the body. The diagnosis led the Root family to Boston Children’s Hospital for treatment. Once there, Phoebe’s doctors made several attempts to treat her failing liver, but no matter what they tried, nothing seemed to fully alleviate her symptoms. After six months, it was clear that her best chance at survival would be a liver transplant. She was placed on the organ donation list, and David and his wife, Amy, prepared themselves for a difficult wait in their Maine home.

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