Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 15, 2009

SAVED: Shelby boy back in form after liver transplant

By Bill Wolcott<br><a href="mailto:bill.wolcott@lockportjournal.com">E-mail Bill</a>

A 4-year-old boy who had a liver transplant has returned home to Shelby and is showing signs of a complete recovery.

Joshua Fuller, son of Jennifer and James Fuller, became ill on Feb. 17.

Within two days his condition deteriorated and he was taken to Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. The family was soon off to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, where a transplant was deemed necessary in order to save his life.

Joshua’s skin and eyes turned bright yellow, and his urine was dark.

“He would have never made it. It was astonishing. It was amazing,” said Dr. William Baire of Lockport Pediatrics. “Some kids have to wait a lifetime and don’t make it.”

A liver was located in Maryland, from a 17-year-old boy. The hospital would not release the donor’s name.

Dr. Kyle Soltys of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh flew to Maryland on March 10 on a chartered jet and returned the same day to assist in the 10-hour operation with Dr. George Mazariegos.

Joshua was Status One, on top of the regional recipient list.

“You couldn’t get much sicker than he was,” Soltys said.

Joshua was living hour by hour.

Because the donor had A-positive blood and Joshua is 0-positive, the doctors kept Joshua’s stomach open for a week to be sure his body would not reject the new organ.

“You have to do a lot of special things,” the doctor said. “They can have bad rejection.”

The liver also had to be cut to fit. The donor’s liver was more than twice the size of Joshua’s. “We do it in cases where children are high risk,” Soltys said. “We don’t do it all time.”

The operation went smoothly.

Previously, Joshua was never sick in his life, according to his mom. “He was an active and healthy boy,” said Jennifer, who has a 2-year-old, Nathan, and a baby on the way.

“He was just a little bit yellow the first day, and two days later it was pretty significant,” Baire said. “It’s very uncommon to see 4-year-old turn yellow.”

The change happened rapidly, and the doctors suspected a viral infection.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Viral infections are hard to treat because viruses live inside your body's cells. They are protected from medicines, which usually move through your bloodstream. Antibiotics do not work for viral infections.”

An ultrasound showed blood was going through the liver, but the organ was already dead.

“Josh was slipping so quick,” Jennifer said.

During Joshua’s illness, the Fullers were away from home for two months and lodged at a special house for family members near the Pittsburgh hospital. Joshua’s grandmother stayed at home and watched Nathan.

Joshua came home on April 20. “He’s back to his own self,” Jennifer said. “His levels are perfect. We call him Sponge Bob.”

James works at Associated Brands in Medina. Their baby is due in October.

Joshua will be seen in the Pittsburgh clinic about once a month. According to Soltys, Josh will be monitored for a lifetime.

Soltys estimated that he has done about 250 transplants in five years. That’s one a week.

The doctors keep in touch with the patients and exchange photographs and cards.

“We all know the kids. We see the kids,” Soltys said. “The acute kids, we’re really close to them.”