‘He is a miracle’: NY baby survives liver transplant, COVID-19

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSTM) - A baby boy from New York is getting ready to celebrate his first birthday, a milestone he was not guaranteed but reached after surviving both a liver disease and COVID-19. His mother is hopeful he’ll see many more.

At just 2 months old, Kasen Donerlson developed a rare liver disease called biliary atresia, which causes blockages in the pathways from the liver to the gallbladder. To improve his chances of survival, he’d need a liver transplant.

Kasen Donerlson is in good spirits ahead of his first birthday after surviving COVID-19 and receiving a liver transplant.
Kasen Donerlson is in good spirits ahead of his first birthday after surviving COVID-19 and receiving a liver transplant. (Source: Donerlson Family, WSTM via CNN)

“When his liver began to decline, we had to, kind of like, push up the stakes,” said Mitayah Donerlson, Kasen’s mom.

Donerlson decided a hospital in Pittsburgh was the best option for her son’s procedure. The next several months were taken up with back and forth visits to the city, waiting for news about a donor and frequent trips to the hospital.

Then, in late November, 10-month-old Kasen developed a fever and tested positive for COVID-19. The family had no idea how he contracted it, Donerlson saying she’d been staying at home to try to protect him. But other family members also tested positive.

“I didn’t think he was going to make it. I didn’t think he was going to be able to suppress the COVID,” Donerlson said.

However, after four days in the hospital, Kasen did make it.

“He always seems to wow his doctors. He is a blessing, and he is a miracle,” Donerlson said.

Just two weeks later, in December, another miracle: Kasen had a liver donor.

“My heart was so overjoyed that that’s all I could do was cry,” Donerlson said.

Kasen received his transplant Jan. 3, just weeks before his first birthday. His mom says he’s in good spirits.

The family’s journey is far from over. Kasen may need to stay at the hospital for the next six months as he recovers, meaning Donerlson and other family members may have to relocate to Pittsburgh, but COVID-19 restrictions have made it difficult to find a place that would allow the family to stay.

“The financial hardship of that is very hard. I have to juggle both home and my living arrangements here,” Donerlson said.

The family set up a GoFundMe to help with the costs, which has raised over $11,000.

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