Rocco Mastramico – Biliary Atresia – Living-Donor Liver Transplant Patient Story

Learn more about Rocco's experience with Biliary Atresia at Children's Hospital.

When Rocco Mastramico was just four months old, he suddenly went from being a healthy, active baby to a very sick child.

His parents, Chris and Diane, noticed his skin and eye color looked a little strange. So, they asked Rocco's doctor to take a closer look.

While he had no other symptoms, a blood test showed that Rocco's liver was failing. His doctors sent him to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh where he was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disease that affects newborn babies shortly after birth.

What is biliary atresia?

Biliary atresia:

  • Disrupts the bile ducts that carry bile from the liver to the intestine.
  • Traps bile in the liver and prevents it from working properly.
  • Causes scarring in the liver that can lead to cirrhosis.

While the disease is rare, it's the most common reason for liver transplants in children.

When Chris and Diane learned that their son needed a liver transplant, they felt shocked, confused, and scared.

"It hits you really hard when you find out that your son needs a transplant," said Chris. "But we knew we were in the right place with the right people."

Living-Donor Liver Transplant

Shortly after his diagnosis, Rocco was put on the liver transplant waiting list.

For kids like Rocco, each moment spent on the waiting list is critical. That's why doctors suggested a living-donor liver transplant.

"Once they presented this option, I wanted to take it," said Chris. "I immediately thought that if that was something I could do, then I wanted to do it."

During a living-donor liver transplant, doctors remove part of a healthy liver from the living donor and transplant that part of the liver into the recipient to replace their unhealthy liver.

Living-donor liver transplants are possible because of the liver's unique ability to grow back and it allows a child receive a transplant sooner compared to waiting for an organ from a deceased donor.

Dad's a Match

After Chris' liver transplant evaluation, doctors found that he was compatible with his son.

Four months after Rocco's diagnosis, he was strong enough to have the transplant.

"I never knew that a living-donor liver transplant was an option. I just never even considered it," said Chris. "And to know that the liver grows back was a surprise."

Rocco and Chris both had a successful liver transplant in May 2011.

While in recovery at UPMC Montefiore, Chris could video chat with his family at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Within a week, he was able to visit his son.

"You could tell immediately that there was a difference and that the transplant had worked," said Chris. "At first glance, it was his coloring and then his energy level picked up very quickly."

Healed, Healthy, and Loves Hockey

Rocco and Chris both made a full recovery and are doing well.

Chris hopes that their story will help others become more aware of living donation and living-donor liver transplants..

"It wouldn't have been an option not to do it. While we were at the hospital, we talked to a ton of people who all seemed to have such a positive outlook. So, that really helped," said Chris.

Today, Rocco is a healthy and active 5-year-old.

He loves sports and plays baseball and hockey. He's also learning how to swim.

Rocco's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.