Andrew M. – Living-Donor Liver & 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,” she says.

A month later, though, Jessica's obstetrician noticed that her amniotic fluid level had dropped and admitted her to a local Maryland hospital. The expected overnight stay for observation turned into 10 weeks of complete bed rest.

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

“We knew even before Andrew was born that eventually he would need a kidney transplant. So my husband Mike, my mom Dee Papania, and I decided we would have the test as possible donors. We just hoped and prayed that when the time came, we would be matches,” Jessica says.

The Challenge: A Failing Kidney and Liver Damage

Born at 35 weeks on March 27, 2006, Andrew had a baptism. He then quickly transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at a nearby hospital where he began dialysis.

After five months, Andrew finally went home to Ellicott City, Maryland. Jessica, Mike, and Dee took over his daily 10- to 12-hour dialysis treatments.

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

CHF — a rare disorder of the bile ducts — and cholangitis — a bacterial infection caused by blocked ducts — 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,” says Jessica.

Their nephrologist recommended UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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

“We were all matches, 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,” says Jessica.

“We made that decision based on what would be best for our family,” adds Mike. “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 Children’s and UPMC Montefiore.

The Solution: Kidney and Liver Transplantation

Andrew’s kidney and liver transplant surgery took place on Sept. 19, 2007, at Children’s Hospital. He was 18 months old and the first pediatric patient 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,” adds Jessica. “It was stressful, but I had a strong support system around me.”

Surgeons removed Dee’s kidney laparoscopically. Four weeks after surgery, she was walking two miles from the family’s apartment to Children’s to visit Andrew each day.

“The transplant process wasn’t difficult or complicated,” says Dee. “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 regenerate itself.

“I was in the hospital for four days and off work for about 10 weeks total,” says Mike, a mechanical engineer.

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

“They were terrific. They even held fund raisers to help us with housing costs while we were in Pittsburgh,” says Mike.

Within six months after surgery, Mike and Dee had full recoveries and could resume their normal routines without restriction.

“Combined transplants from two different living adult donors are challenging, but this was a unique solution that provided an excellent outcome for Andrew’s needs,” comments George Mazariegos, MD, FACS, chief of the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s Hospital.

The Result: A Healthy and Active Boy

Today, Andrew is a typical boy, says Jessica.

“He’s a normal, ornery 10-year-old,” adds Dee with a laugh.

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

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

In September 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,” says 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,” says 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.

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