Andrew M. – Living-Donor Liver and Kidney Transplant Story

Learn more about Andrew's living-donor liver transplant and living-donor kidney transplant.

Taking on a Triple Threat: ARPKD, Caroli's Disease, and CHF

When 20 weeks pregnant with her first child — a boy, she and her husband named, Andrew — Jessica Morrissey had an ultrasound.

“Everything was fine," Jessica said.

A month later, her obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) noticed that her amniotic fluid level had dropped and admitted her to a local Maryland hospital. What started as an overnight stay for observation turned into 10 weeks of complete bed rest.

Doctors diagnosed baby Andrew prenatally with autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD). ARPKD is a rare and life-threatening genetic disorder that affects the kidney and liver.

“We knew even before Andrew was born that he would need a kidney transplant. So, my husband Mike, my mom, Dee , and I decided we would have to be evaluated as possible donors. We just hoped and prayed that when the time came, we would be compatible," Jessica said.

The Challenge: A Failing Kidney and Liver Damage

Born at 35 weeks in Mar. 2006, Andrew had a baptism. He then quickly transferred to the NICU at a nearby hospital where he began dialysis.

After five months, Andrew finally went home to Ellicott City, Md.

Jessica, Mike, and Dee took over his daily 10 to 12-hour dialysis treatments.

At 10 months, doctors diagnosed Andrew with Caroli's disease, congenital hepatic fibrosis or CHF, and recurring cholangitis.

CHF is a rare disorder of the bile ducts and cholangitis is a bacterial infection caused by blocked ducts.

Both had severely damaged Andrew's liver.

The Path to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

“At that point, transplant became our only option. And none of the hospitals around us would do both a kidney and liver transplant on an infant," said Jessica.

Andrew's liver doctor recommended UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Mike, Jessica, and Dee traveled to Pittsburgh in June 2007 for the transplant consult. They also received testing to see if any of them could be Andrew's organ donors.

“We were all compatible, so we decided that Mike would be Andrew's liver donor. My mother, because of her small stature, would be his kidney donor. And I would be the caregiver for everyone," said Jessica. “We made that decision based on what would be best for our family," Mike added. “He's our son and we would do whatever we could to make him healthy."

Just before the transplant, the family moved into an apartment close to both UPMC Children's Hospital and UPMC Montefiore.

The Solution: Living- Kidney and -Liver Transplant

Andrew's kidney and liver transplant surgery took place in Sept., 2007, at Children's Hospital. He was 18 months old and the first child to receive organs from two living donors.

Dee and Mike had their surgeries at UPMC Montefiore.

“Three of the most important people in my life were in surgery at about the same time," Jessica said.. “It was stressful, but I had a strong support system around me."

Surgeons performed laparoscopic surgery to remove Dee's kidney. Four weeks after surgery, she was walking two miles from the family's apartment to Children's Hospital to visit Andrew each day.

“The transplant process wasn't difficult or complicated," Dee said. “Mike and I prepared for it by getting ourselves into good shape physically. And the whole transplant team was phenomenal. I don't think we could have received better care."

During Mike's surgery, doctors removed a piece of his healthy liver to replace Andrew's failing liver.

A living-donor liver transplant is possible because of the liver's unique ability to regrow.

“I was in the hospital for four days and off work for about 10 weeks total," Mike said.

He credits his work colleagues for their support, both emotional and financial.

“They were terrific. They even held fundraisers to help us with housing costs while we were in Pittsburgh," Mike said.

Within six months of surgery, Mike and Dee had fully recovered and could resume their normal routines without restriction. 

The Result: A Healthy and Active Boy

Today, Andrew is a typical boy, says Jessica.

“He's a normal, ornery 10-year-old," added Dee.

Like his dad, Andrew is “crazy with numbers. He wants to be a math teacher," said Jessica.

Besides being a big brother to 7-year-old Natalie and 5-year-old Zachary, Andrew plays baseball, basketball, and the piano.

In Sept. 2016, the weekend after Andrew's transplant anniversary, Mike took Andrew on his first Cub Scout camping trip.

“We are so grateful to have a busy, active family," said Jessica.

Every year, the family makes a trip to Pittsburgh so Andrew's transplant team can check how he's doing.

“It's a vacation to the children. We can catch up with Andrew's transplant team, who are like family now," said Jessica.

During a recent visit, a Pittsburgh family whose child is facing transplant surgery asked to meet them.

“We're very happy to share our story. Support is really important when your child is sick and facing surgery."

Learn more about living-donor liver transplants for children.