Toddler gets liver transplant, survives COVID-19 diagnosis before first birthday

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Kasen Donerlson was just months old when he was diagnosed with a rare liver disease.

Kasen has biliary atresia which causes blockages between his liver and gallbladder.

Johns Hopkins University says children with the condition will appear normal at birth but will become jaundiced by the second or third week. The baby may gain weight but then will lose it as they become irritable and the jaundice worsens.

He had issues breathing and frequently had fevers that couldn’t be treated with over the counter medications, WSTM reported.

At first, doctors had hoped a procedure, called a Kasai procedure, according to Johns Hopkins, connecting his liver to his small intestine would work but determined that for the best chances, Kasen would need a transplant.

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Kasen, who is from Syracuse, New York, was put on a liver transplant list at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

His mother Mitayah Donerlson would ferry Kasen back and forth from New York to Pennsylvania.

In November, Kasen developed a fever. At 10 months old, Kasen was diagnosed with COVID-19. Donerlson has no idea where he got it since she hadn’t been at work for almost a year, spending most of her time at home caring for her son. Not only did Kasen develop the illness, but also other family members did too, WSTM reported.

All survived.

A few weeks after the COVID-19 diagnosis, and winning that battle, Kasen’s mother got the call she’d been waiting for. A donor liver had been found. On Jan. 2, Kasen had a transplant, just short of turning 1 year old on Jan. 14.

Kasen will remain in the hospital for about six months. His entire family is looking to relocate, but they are hitting roadblocks at places like the Ronald McDonald House of Pittsburgh because of coronavirus restrictions, WSTM reported.

For more on Kasen’s story and how you can help the family, click here.