Nurse Gives 8-Year-Old Boy Part of Her Liver in an Amazing Act of Kindness

Pierre Van ZylCancer, Heal, Health Awareness

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nurse saves boys life with a liver transplant

The most terrifying moment in the life of a parent is finding out that their child is gravely ill. As a parent, you want to take care of and protect your children, but when circumstances occur that are beyond your control, you feel powerless and desperate.

That is how Ruth and James Auten felt when they found out their healthy, active, eight-year-old son had an aggressive virus attacking his liver [1].

Brayden, who loved wrestling and had just finished competing in the state championship, urgently needed a liver transplant, but it seemed nearly impossible to find a donor in time [1].

The little boy’s story spread to the neighboring hospital, where, in an extraordinary act of human kindness, ICU nurse Camie Loritz offered to donate part of her liver to save his life [1].

What Does Your Liver Do?

The liver is one of the largest organs in your body and has many important functions. It converts the nutrients from your food into substances that your body can use, it stores these substances and supplies cells with them when needed [2].

It also absorbs toxins found in our bodies and either turns them into harmless substances or makes sure the body gets rid of them [2].

The liver also produces proteins, with the help of vitamin K, that help your blood to clot [2].

What Types of Viruses Attack the Liver?

The primary viruses that attack the liver are called hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis means “inflammation of the liver”, and there are six types – A, B, C, D, E, and G, but A, B, and C are the most common [3]. When the liver becomes inflamed, it cannot perform its functions well.

The trouble with liver viruses is that the symptoms they exhibit are often vague. General nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, weakness, and fatigue are all common signs that something could be wrong with your liver [3].

Who is at Risk?

Workers in healthcare professions are at a greater risk because they are more likely to be exposed to other peoples’ blood and bodily fluids [3] [4].

People who work in sewage or water treatment are also at a greater risk because they are more likely to come into contact with certain chemicals and toxins [3] [4].

Other people who are at greater risk for contracting hepatitis are those with multiple sexual partners, people who are intravenous drug users, HIV patients, and people with hemophilia who receive blood clotting factors [3] [4].

Liver Transplants

A liver transplant is when a patient who has a diseased liver receives a whole or partial healthy liver from somebody else [5].

At this time, a transplant is your only option if you have a diseased or failing liver because there is currently no device available that performs all functions of the liver [5].

 Liver transplant surgery is a major surgery that can last between six and eight hours [6]. There are, of course, risks associated with it, and the benefits of undergoing surgery are carefully considered before a patient is put on the waiting list for an organ donor [6].

There are a number of reasons why someone might not be a good candidate for a liver transplant:

  • If you have a severe, irreversible medical condition with short-term life expectancy
  • If you have severe pulmonary hypertension
  • If you have cancer that has spread to other parts of the body
  • If your infection is systemic or uncontrollable
  • If you are an active substance abuser (alcohol or drugs)
  • If you have a history of non-compliance or are unable to adhere to a strict medical regime
  • If you have severe and uncontrollable psychiatric disease [5]

What Can go Wrong During a Liver Transplant?

As mentioned above, liver transplants are major surgeries and there are some risks associated with it. They include:

  • Bile duct leaks or the shrinking of your bile ducts
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • The donated liver could fail
  • Infection
  • Your body could reject the donated liver
  • Mental confusion or seizures [7]

Why Would a Donated Liver Fail? 

Sometimes, the donated liver could fail or be rejected by your body. This is because your body views the new organ as a foreign object and wants to attack and destroy it [8]. In order for the new liver to live successfully in your body, you must take a series of medications that trick your body into accepting the new transplant [8].

Since these medications affect your immune system, your body is at higher risk for infections, so your doctors need to strike a balance between preventing rejection and risking getting an infection [8].

Where do Donated Livers Come From?

Livers are donated either from people who have been declared brain dead, as long as consent has been given from their next of kin, or a partial liver can be donated from a living person such as a family member or a friend [6]. 

Donors and recipients are usually matched based on liver size and blood type, with the sickest patients receiving priority on the waiting list [6]. The waiting list is often very long, and this can be a very emotional, stressful time for both the patient and their friends and family [6].

How Do I Keep My Liver Healthy?

Of course, contracting a liver disease like Hepatitis is not something that anyone does on purpose, but there are some steps you can take to ensure your liver is as healthy as it can be. Here are a few tips to keep your liver in top-shape:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a diet that contains lots of fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives
  • Consume alcohol moderately
  • Avoid the use of drugs
  • Avoid contaminated needles (this includes in hospital settings, tattoo parlors, etc.)
  • Talk to your doctor if you come in contact with someone else’s blood
  • Don’t share personal hygiene items
  • Practice protected sex
  • Wash your hands
  • Follow directions on all medications so as not to harm your liver [9]
  • Include liver supportive foods and herbs like cruciferous vegetables, bitter vegetables, and teas like milk thistle or dandelion root.  

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