Markus DeJong is a lucky little boy. At two years old, he has received the best gift anyone could ask for…a new liver!
He was healthy at birth but after three weeks became irritable and wouldn’t sleep.
His skin colour was jaundiced and when it got worse, his parents sought help.
“He was green like Baby Hulk,” said Tanya Dejong, holding her son at his bedside.
He was diagnosed with a tumour that kept growing and threatened to become cancerous. Time was a factor.
On Nov. 6 his father, a 30-year-old oil worker in the southern Alberta city, gave Markus part of his liver.
The waiting list for a donor was up to two years and tests showed he was a compatible donor.
It came to the time that they had to do it,” he said. “His health could have faded quite drastically.
“The tumour was the size of a mandarin orange and it was pressing against the kidneys, causing blood-flow problems.” It’s the most fabulous gift that a parent could give at the holiday season. Markus got discharged out of hospital on Christmas Eve,” said hepatologist Susan Gilmour, the doctor in charge.
Gilmour said while Markus will be on drugs the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplant and must continually guard against infections, he should be able to lead a healthy, normal life.
“They’re in preschool, they’re in school, they’re in swimming lessons, they belong to Cubs. We have patients who are on select hockey teams,” she said.
Gilmour said the procedure is somewhat rare – only about one in four child patients have a parent who is compatible in blood and size to be able to donate a liver.
In 2005 there were about 50 liver transplants done on children in Canada. The average number per year is 35 to 40.
The average wait time for liver transplants for children in the Edmonton health region is nine months. For adults in Canada it’s about two years.
The latest data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows that 3,914 patients were on waiting lists for an organ at the end of 2003, a slight decrease from the start of the decade. Patients waiting for a kidney transplant comprised three quarters of the waiting list.
The data showed that 250 patients – the equivalent of five a week – died while waiting for new organs, including 100 waiting for a liver.