According to a story from the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, the Fitzmaurice family of St. Louis, Missouri will have a ton to be thankful for as the holidays roll around this year. This is because they will be celebrating the two year ‘transplantaversary’ of daughter Reilly, who had to get a liver transplant following complications related to the rare disease autoimmune hepatitis.
About Autoimmune Hepatitis
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare disease of the liver in which the body’s own immune system begins to mistakenly attack cells of the liver, triggering an inflammatory response. What causes this process to begin is unclear, but liver cells present with MHC class II receptors in the disease, which could be the result of a genetic abnormality or prior liver infection. These receptors cause the response from the immune system. Symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis include abdominal pain, fatigue, jaundice, joint pain, liver failure, weight loss, fever, and nausea. The treatment of the disease typically involves the use of immunosuppressants, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy agents. Most patients can eventually achieve remission from their symptoms, but they almost always relapse. It is most common among people of middle age (40-50) with about 50,000 cases in the US. This disease can negatively affect life expectancy. To learn more about autoimmune hepatitis, click here.
Travel back in time to October 2016, when Reilly was part of her soccer team in the seventh grade. That month, Reilly was out of school for an entire week with a low fever and a general feeling of unwellness. She recovered a bit by the end of the week and felt good enough to play in the Friday night soccer game. Then, serious symptoms started to appear. Reilly was having trouble breathing deeply and her abdomen was noticeably swollen.
Over the next few weeks, the girl underwent a dizzying array of tests and was finally diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. However, the news was even worse than that: her liver was in a state of cirrhosis and had turned into scar tissue. Organ failure was in the not-too-distant future, and the only option was a liver transplant if she was to survive. Needless to say, the Fitzmaurice family was in a state of shock.
They reached out to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to help cover the staggering costs of the operation. It was November 16, 2017 when the family finally got the critical call: a liver was available. After the operation, Reilly was able to make a full recovery and her life has mostly returned to normal. Clearly, this Thanksgiving will mean a lot to the Fitzmaurice family.