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Christmas Miracle: 5-Month-Old Infant Finds Organ Match In 40 Minutes, Successfully Undergoes Liver Transplant

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Daniel McCabe was born with biliary atresia. With his condition taking a turn for the worse, he was listed for a liver transplant on Dec. 13.

Fortunately, the 5-month-old from Wisconsin only had to wait 40 minutes before matching with an organ donor.

It was at 10:15 a.m. when Daniel went on the United Network of Organ Sharing list. At 10:55 a.m., Dr. Jeffrey Brown, the boy's doctor, went into his room to share the news with his family.

"I never thought he would receive a liver this soon. I thought it would be months before a match and that was my biggest worry because he was so sick," said Melody, Daniel's mother.

After matching with a liver donor, Daniel was promptly scheduled for transplant surgery, which was successfully carried out by Dr. Riccardo Superina, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago's transplant surgery head. The boy is now recovering nicely in the hospital's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and is set to stay there for the next three weeks or so.

Aside from Daniel, another person also benefited from the liver he matched with. According to Superina, an adult was given a portion of the liver after it was split into two. He added that if organ splitting can be done in 20 percent of donors, the pediatric waiting list can actually be eliminated.

A Waiting Game

The short wait Daniel and his family had to go through was indeed unusual as the typical waiting period for a liver lasts 86 days for children and 149 days for adults. Daniel's case was also the shortest wait that Justin Boese, Lurie Children's organ procurement specialist, had seen in the past five years he has been with the hospital. The soonest match he had experienced before was at least 12 hours.

According to the UNOS, more than 14,000 people are on the wait list for a liver.

What Is Biliary Atresia?

A life-threatening condition, biliary atresia only affects infants. It occurs when bile ducts within or outside the liver don't have normal openings. With bile retained in the liver, it starts destroying liver cells, causing scarring or cirrhosis in the organ.

It is still not clear what exactly causes biliary atresia, but in some cases the condition is likely congenital, meaning it has been present in the child since birth. However, it is not hereditary, so it is not passed on from parent to child, nor is it contagious. Biliary atresia is also not attributed to anything a mother did or did not do during pregnancy.

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