At 2 years old, Baelyn Schwab’s liver had become so damaged that it could no longer clean ammonia out of her blood. She was one of 109 children worldwide with similar cases of sudden severe hepatitis.
Schwab went from running around her family’s farm in South Dakota to a room in the pediatric intensive care unit at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis within a week.
The liver controls clotting factors in the blood, contributes to the body’s immune response, and filters out ammonia. When the blood levels of ammonia get too high, the brain starts swelling, and the patient can become comatose or die.
Baelyn was put on a transplant waiting list because he didn’t want her to get sick while waiting for the surgery. Children automatically get the highest priority, but the CDC has seen two children with liver failure this year.
“Adenovirus seems to be associated with many of these cases,” said Thielen.
The CDC investigated how a virus that usually causes stomach upset and cold-like symptoms could cause liver failure in otherwise healthy children. It is not clear how this virus might be involved.
Researchers are looking for any link to the Covid-19 virus, but it’s too early to say whether it’s a factor.
Baelyn’s doctors believe her liver may have been damaged by the time they tested it for adenovirus. They debated whether to give her a powerful antiviral drug – cidofovir – or wait for the infection to clear before giving her a new liver. They decided to use the drug but watched her carefully.
The toddler woke up covered in itchy red welts on Friday, April 22, and her mom thought she had hives. She was given epinephrine and sent to the emergency room, but the hives cleared up the next day.
Baelyn’s eyes began to look yellow, so her parents made a doctor’s appointment for the next day. The doctor drew blood and told the family they had to get to the city by helicopter.
Baelyn came to the hospital with liver damage, and doctors tried to buy her time by watching her blood every four hours around the clock. But the damage was too great, and they decided to put her on the transplant list.
Bioengineers have created devices that can temporarily take over the work of the heart, lungs, and even the kidneys, but not the liver. Patients need a transplant when the liver fails.
Baelyn had been on the transplant list for three days when a liver from a 16-year-old in Texas was donated. A surgeon and his team carefully divided the liver and raced back to Minnesota.
A doctor opened Baelyn’s body and found that her liver was damaged. He used blood vessels from a donor to create a bridge between the aorta and the new liver, and it worked. Baelyn’s new liver was too large for her body, so her incision was left open for a day or two so doctors could check on the transplant more easily and drain the wound.
The Schwabs are still managing with the help of friends and family and donations from a GoFundMe page for Baelyn. They are still working through some grief over Baelyn’s transplant.
Schwab hopes that by telling their story, they can help other families avoid the same fate. She wants people to watch for symptoms such as yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark urine, cloudy gray stool, fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, or a loss of appetite. Take immediate action if any of these symptoms arise.
Find out more in the links below:
- ‘This is not my kid’: Mysterious hepatitis wreaked havoc in healthy child with shocking speed CNN
- Reported cases of mystery hepatitis in kids doubled since last week: What to know TODAY
- Rare cases of hepatitis in children causes concerns throughout the Tri-State WLWT Cincinnati
- CDC Continues to Investigate Unusual Reports of Liver Disease in Children CNET
- Hepatitis outbreak in children: CDC on symptoms parents should look for AL.com
- View Full Coverage on Google News