Aiden was born on his due date, May 24, 2014. I had an uneventful pregnancy, and there was no reason to believe anything was wrong until Aiden became jaundiced a few days after he was born. His pediatrician thought the jaundice would subside on its own, but on July 1, we checked his bilirubin as a precaution. I believed the results would come back normal, just as the pediatrician had expected. However, the next day I got a call I will never forget. Aiden’s bilirubin was high, with elevated direct bilirubin, which is often indicative of a liver issue. We spent the next 10 days undergoing a battery of tests. Eventually, we were referred to Mercedes Martinez, MD, a liver and transplant specialist in Columbia University’s Department of Pediatrics. There was evidence that Aiden had biliary atresia, a rare condition in which the liver’s bile ducts are blocked. This diagnosis could only be confirmed through surgery, so on July 14, when he was just six weeks old, Aiden had his first surgery. It was biliary atresia. The short-term solution was a “Kasai” bypass procedure. Five days after the surgery, we took Aiden home and life slowly returned to normal. He was doing great until March 2015, when he developed a high fever due to a liver infection. At that point, we were told the best course of action for Aiden was a liver transplant. Deep down we had known he would need a transplant eventually, and on April 7, 2015, my husband donated a portion of his liver to Aiden.
Dr. Martinez was by our side from day one. She promised me Aiden would be okay, which I have never heard a doctor do before. But it wasn’t her promise that kept me at ease as much as her passion, knowledge, bedside manner, and caring personality. The minute I found out we were going to move forward with the transplant, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew that a liver transplant was the only cure for biliary atresia, and that at Columbia, under Dr. Martinez’s care, he was in the best hands possible.
Aiden is now a wild, happy, and healthy two-year-old boy, starting school in the fall. There are not enough words to thank Dr. Martinez and her team for what they have done for Aiden and our family. When my husband and I found out about the Transplant Forum’s work to support transplant doctors and their research, we immediately committed to help Dr. Martinez. A gift for research will ultimately benefit Aiden’s future, and the futures of so many other children, as discoveries are made to improve surgical outcomes, and to reduce and even do away with immunosuppressant drugs.
Johanna Pryluck, Aiden’s mother