LIVEr Champion

Meet our 2020 National LIVEr Champion, Philip Kennelly

Philip was born in July 2013, and he was seemingly healthy at first. He had some jaundice in his eyes, but we were assured this was normal and it would soon fade away. Finally, at six weeks old, I insisted that this was not going away, and they finally retested his bilirubin. We received a call later that day telling us to go to the emergency room. After many tests, and a biopsy, it was determined that Philip had Biliary Atresia. At eight weeks old, he underwent a procedure called a Kasai, which serves as kind of a “temporary fix” that allows bile to drain from the liver.

Philip spent the next two years in and out of the hospital. He couldn’t sleep at night and would scratch himself so much that he would have open sores all over his body. He also developed portal hypertension, which caused him to have esophageal varices and GI bleeds. In February 2016, Philip had a GI bleed, only a week after an endoscopy showed he did not have any varices that looked concerning. It was determined that with the unpredictability of his bleed and the itching getting even worse, he should be listed for a transplant. But according to his blood work, his PELD score was not high enough to get him transplanted any time soon.  His team suggested looking into living donation, so we discussed it as a family and we decided that Philip’s dad, Dan would get tested first. And he was a match!

On May 10, 2016, they were wheeled into the operating room and our lives were forever changed. Both are doing great since the surgery. Dan sometimes forgets he even had surgery. Philip has had a couple of bumps along the way, but the transplant has allowed him to start kindergarten this past year and keep up with his peers. He is a typical six-year-old boy who loves cars and playing with his brother. You would never know all that he has been through if we didn’t tell you.

– Kim Kennelly, Mother of Philip

Meet our 2019 Montana LIVEr Champion, Peri

We were overjoyed by the birth of our daughter, Peri, in August, 2013. Unaware of the grim diagnosis which awaited her, we enjoyed our baby daughter to the fullest. It wasn’t until a gamut of medical tests, a cross-state journey and liver biopsy at Children’s Hospital Colorado that we understood why our baby was unable to clear the yellow that clouded her eyes and marred her skin; she was afflicted by a rare, life-threatening disease called Biliary Atresia.

At 25 days old, Peri underwent surgery to correct the non-functionality of her biliary system in her liver. Peri was flown from Montana to Denver on three separate Life Flights, with numerous hospitalizations in between. In January, 2017, the decision was made to list her for transplant.

As her mother, I had never doubted and had hoped, in fact, that I would be the one to donate to her. After praying that the evaluation process would be the one thing on our journey which was easy, I was approved as Peri’s donor at the end of February, 2017.

Our surgeries took place on the morning of March 21 with myself admitted to UCHealth and Peri at Children’s Hospital Colorado. We cannot thank our communities, families, friends and medical professionals enough for helping us find the light at the end of this struggle and pray that the opportunity we were graciously given can be allotted to all those who struggle with liver disease.

– By Claire Erickson, Liver Champion’s mom and her hero

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