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.” …
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In addition to being relatives, Susie Percy, her brother Paul Bears, Jr., her father Paul Bears, Sr. and his brother-in-law Bill Cashell all have one thing in common — they each have one kidney.
“Kidney donation is a family affair,” says Susie.
Thirty-four years ago, Bill Cashell gave a kidney to his son Sean, who was born with a rare genetic condition called Alport syndrome. Eleven years later, when Sean needed a new kidney, his Uncle Paul, Sr. stepped forward. And nine years after that, when Sean was experiencing rejection, Paul Jr. offered to donate to his cousin.
Fast forward 14 years.
“We call him ‘the little man,’” says Lauren Messier. “It’s part of how he looks, but it’s also the way he acts. He just makes us laugh.”
Laughter didn’t come easy the first few months after he was born. Gavin had end-stage renal disease. His mother Samantha ‘Sam’ Grota was told he would need a kidney transplant, and he needed one sooner rather than later.
But the story behind Gavin’s transplant doesn’t begin with his birth; it begins with the birth of a friendship between Lauren and Sam, when the two — now 30-year-olds — first met in a Fairhaven, Massachusetts, middle school. …
Laurie Lukianov has a more extensive medical history than most people would accumulate in several lifetimes. She spent most of her childhood in a hospital, and remarkably, that’s where the 26-year-old nursing student wants to spend her career.
“There is no question in my mind,” she says. “Since I was 3 years old, I wanted to be a nurse.”
Born with biliary atresia—a life-threatening liver condition in which the bile duct to the small intestine becomes blocked—Laurie underwent two liver transplants by age 13. Due to her long history of health problems, Laurie has had to overcome more obstacles than the average nursing student. But in many ways, these obstacles make her an ideal fit for the field she wishes to pursue—pediatric transplant.
‘The biggest benefit is that I know what they have gone through,” she says.