COLORADO SPRINGS — A Southern Colorado father gives his son the gift of life a second time with an organ donation.
According to Dr. Amy Feldman, MD MSCS with Children’s Hospital Colorado sadly one in ten babies and one in 20 children die before they can get a suitable liver.
The Mullett family was not going to let that happen.
Before Bryce was even born, at the 20-week mark of Stephanie Mullett’s pregnancy the family learned that their baby had several health issues. At 30 weeks she was at Children’s Hospital so the doctors could keep an eye on baby Bryce’s heart. At 32 weeks into the pregnancy, Stephanie was induced, and Bryce was born weighing 3 lbs 1 oz.
Soon after Bryce was born, they learned he was diagnosed with Alagille syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder that can affect the liver, heart, and other parts of the body. One of the major symptoms of Alagille syndrome is liver damage caused by abnormalities in the bile ducts.
Dr. Amy Feldman said Alagille’s is pretty rare. Every single person has different symptoms from severe to mild however 10-30% who have Alagille’s end up requiring a liver transplant. When Bryce was six months old his family started the process for him to receive a liver transplant.
“It was pretty scary to think of this little guy going through something like that,” Stephanie explained.
Andrew Mullett, Bryce’s dad looked into being a live donor, he went through tests, MRIs, CT scans, and made sure his blood type was compatible.
August 7, 2018 was transplant day, Andrew was a perfect match to be his live liver donor.
“We didn’t know if he was going to make it to his first birthday without that transplant,” Andrew said. “It was really scary he was only 15 pounds during transplant time. He was just so sick we knew it was going to be such a life changer to him, we were excited for him to be able to grow up and play and do things he should be able to do.”
A scary time with a big payoff.
“The kiddo went into to transplant was not the kiddo we took home,” Stephanie said. “It was unbelievable, he was just so sick!”
Bryce is on immunosuppressants and will be for the rest of his life, helping his body not reject his liver. As the family is now several years removed from this process; Bryce is now 3 years old and thriving.
The Mulletts wanted to pay it forward and help other families that were going through a tough diagnosis.
“We just wanted to be able to help other families whatever that may look like,” Stephanie said.
They have given away developmentally appropriate books about liver transplants and sick siblings to help kids process that journey. The Mulletts donated 50 books, called Howl at the Owl.
In the U.S. 500-600 pediatric liver transplants happen per year, according to Dr. Feldmen. After 1 year of transplant greater than 95% of children survive, and 3 years after transplant about 93% of children are still alive.
“There are not enough organs in the United States for everyone who is waiting for a transplant,” Dr. Feldman said.
Living donations help with that.
“The liver is a really awesome organ. You can take a piece of a liver out of someone like you or me and give it to a child and it will grow into a full organ in the child,” Dr. Feldman said.
Success stories like Bryce’s mean a lot and see the Mulletts become an ambassador to other families is important.
“It means everything to me,” Dr. Feldman added. “I always say, I as your physician will empathize with you, and I will hold your hand through this whole process. But I have never lived it as a mom, only that person can really understand what it’s like to be in your footsteps, and I think it’s healing to be on both sides as well.
>> Tap here to learn more about Children’s Colorado’s Living Liver program page.
>> Tap here to learn more about UCHealth’s Living Liver program page.
If you’d like donate to Bryce and his family go here: Foundation Ambassador Page.