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At just 8-weeks-old, this little South African has become the youngest recipient of a liver transplant in Africa and has been given a second chance at life!

 

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Johannesburg, South Africa (09 May 2022) – Dani Wilson shared an incredible story with Good Things Guy about how her little son became the youngest recipient of a liver transplant in Africa… but also how her best friend was the person who donated part of her liver, for her newborn to live.

Her twins – Hudson Andrew Wilson and Harley Hawke Wilson – were just 8-weeks-old when her life changed forever.

Wilson says that they were happy and healthy. Her son – Hudson – had been a ‘little colicky’ from birth, but on the Monday morning after Easter Sunday, he started having really bad tummy cramps and crying more than usual.

“I messaged my incredible paediatrician – Dr Carice Goossens – and told her he is not himself, and I am trying to get colic calm which she had recommended before.”

The doctor recommended the same medication that was being used to treat the colic and to check in if things got worse.

On Tuesday, the little one seemed better but had a very yellow colour to his skin. The mom immediately messaged the doctor and took Hudson to the hospital for a check-up.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I know what was about to happen.”

“Being the paranoid mom I am, I was constantly checking the Lancet app, and when I saw how high the results were, I took a screenshot and sent it to the doc and called her to check; her response was to meet her at the paediatric ward immediately. So my husband and I rushed there, not imagining it could be as bad as it was.”

Wilson assumed that it might be jaundice as Hudson had it mildly at birth.

Dr Goossens immediately admitted the little one to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and put him on a drip, stopped all feeds, and called Dr Beretta at Donald Gordon immediately.

“She told me he was in acute liver failure.”

The doctors did viral swabs and more blood tests. She told Wilson that she was waiting for tests for his INR level and that if it was over 2, he would be transferred to Donald Gordon Transplant NICU.

The Doctor called the Wilsons at 11:30 pm that night with distressing news – his INR levels were at 16, a number that meant his blood was clotting.

The next day, the family met with the team treating their son and were told that he had liver failure.

“They told us that they needed to figure out what the cause was to be able to treat it correctly. They carried on with tests. But he continued to deteriorate quickly. He tested positive for enterovirus as well.”

Enterovirus is like the flu but can be very severe in young babies who have not yet built up immunity – for this little guy and his failing liver, this infection could be fatal.

The doctors continued to treat him as best they could, but Wilson feared that her little baby would not make it.

Her mom, step-dad, sister, aunt and two of her closest friends all came to the hospital to give her love and support. It was then that the doctors explained to the entire family that the 8-week-old baby would need a liver transplant. They explained who in the family would be viable to donate with regards to medical conditions, age, and even size of the liver. And everyone who could stepped up!

“My sister and two friends both said they would donate, and they started the process, which was incredible to have three people willing to donate their liver love for my 8-week old baby. I called my other two closest friends to tell them what was going on, as the week had been an absolute rush. And they both came and got tested too.”

One by one, Hudson’s support crew went to go get tested.

First my sister, who wasn’t a match, then my first friend, and then my second, and then Ali Piper.

“Ali was next up, and she was taken for the MRI and CT scan while the clock ticked down for Hudson. She came back as a match. Let’s just say there were a lot of tears of happiness! We had to go through counselling and meet with doctors, surgeons and specialists. Nobody could give us stats and numbers, though, as it had never been done on a baby this small. The smallest they had done was a 6-month-old.”

At 8:30 pm that evening – just days after the diagnosis –  they wheeled Wilson’s best friend into the theatre. Ali was donating part of her liver, and they would have to remove her gallbladder too.

“About 45 mins later, they took Hudson into prep. It would be a miracle if he made it through the surgery, but there was a chance. Ali came out of the theatre around 3 am and was all good. Hudson was wheeled out at about 4 am. He had made it through the surgery.”

It’s been two weeks since the surgery, and both Hudson and Ali are on their way to recovering.

The Wilsons are so incredibly thankful that Hudson is doing well, that Ali jumped in without any hesitation and that the entire medical team worked miracles to save her son.

“There are still many hurdles ahead, but he is doing well. Ali went home Thursday after recovering in the hospital. The surgery she underwent was major too, but I am so grateful to have such an amazing friend. She didn’t even hesitate.”

“The Donald Gordon team are honestly world-class!! Some of the best in the world. The transplant ICU is world-class, and the nurses and doctors there have been incredible. They are the only hospital in Africa that will perform living donor transplants, and being so small, getting a cadaver organ would have been impossible as there are no baby donors.

“Luckily, Ali’s liver was small enough to fit in him, and they didn’t have to leave his abdomen open. Prof Brits did the stitching by hand for every vessel and valve – no fancy robots – sewing together valves smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen. The anaesthetists were also incredible and managed to control the bleeding.”

“We as a family are just so thankful. My life has changed forever because of everyone involved. My son is a miracle, and the team who saved him are his angels.”


Sources: Interview Dani Wilson
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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