Donor for Deanna

Doctors often miss a life-threatening disease in newborns, which can lead to liver disease. This happened to one local baby, and tonight, after almost two months of waiting, there’s finally a donor for Deanna. 7’s Lynn Martinez has the story.

WSVN — When we last saw Baby Deanna in January, her skin was yellow and her stomach was bloated with fluid.

Heidi Anderson: “She’s having a hard time breathing right now because all the fluid’s pushing up on her diaphragm.”

The 5-month-old desperately needed a new liver to live.

Heidi Anderson: “It’s life-changing to think that your little girl is possibly not going to make it. (crying) Just hope that she’ll get a liver.”

Deanna was born with a rare disease called biliary atresia. BA occurs when the bile ducts outside the liver do not develop properly or become blocked, causing serious liver problems. Doctors often miss this, mistaking a baby’s yellow color for jaundice, and like many babies with BA, Deanna’s diagnosis came too late.

Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “Her liver has continued to deteriorate, so she’s acting like an alcoholic patient at end-stage liver disease.”

After our story in January, Deanna continued to get worse. With a nationwide shortage of organ donors, her family feared the worst.

Heidi Anderson: “I was very concerned. Maybe a donor wouldn’t become available.”

But on February 27th, the family finally received a call. There was a donor for Deanna.

Heidi Anderson (voice of): “We have a liver offer for Deanna. We’re hoping it goes through for Deanna.”

Hours later, a transplant team at UM Holtz Children’s Hospital wheeled Deanna into the OR for the transplant.

Dr. Akin Tekin: “This was a young, adult donor and it was a perfect match, actually. We were very happy at the end of the surgery.”

Two weeks later, Deanna looks like a totally different baby.

She has a transplant scar on her belly, but her stomach is no longer bloated with fluid.

Heidi Anderson: “She’s great. She’s no longer yellow, she’s breathing better. She smiles all the time.”

Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “Very, very very happy! (laughs) Especially to see her, she’s very strong.”

Doctors say, even though they’ll need to carefully monitor Deanna for complications, the child is cured from BA.

Dr. Jennifer Garcia: “Her prognosis is probably going to be very, very good, so I can’t wait for her to tell me about kindergarten and her boyfriends, if that’s allowed.”

Even in all their joy, the Andersons cannot help but think about the donor and the family who’s suffering from their own devastating loss.

Heidi Anderson: “I want to just say, ‘Thank you.’ A part of them lives inside Deanna. Because of them she gets to live a healthy life.”

The Andersons also want to thank 7News viewers who contacted them after our first story aired, sending positive thoughts and prayers to Deanna, and making donations for transplant-related costs. The family plans to reach out to the donor’s family, hoping to meet and, most importantly, to thank them.

Lynn Martinez, 7News.

Deanna’s transplant page:
Click Services & Specialties and look for Transplants