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Spring 1998
To Save Two Lives
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Andrew was diagnosed when he was two months old. He responded well to medication and did not need a transplant immediately. But at a year old, there were signs of fluid seeping from his liver.

One day in October 1997, two months after his second birthday, Andrew began running a fever and had diarrhea. Twenty-four hours later, he was vomiting and his temperature had shot up to 104.6. He was admitted to the hospital, gasping for breath. At first doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. “Finally they explained to me he had a blood infection,” recalls Jadonne, a small, round woman with masses of brown hair and creamy skin. “It was his peritoneum [the membrane that lines the abdomen]. His belly got so distended it pushed his lungs up. It was so huge, it was painful to see.”

Andrew was on life support for 12 days and nearly died. He recovered slowly and was eventually sent home. But now he didn’t want to eat, a problem common to babies with liver disease. To encourage him, the family played a little game. Every night they would sit around the dinner table, clap their hands and say “clap, clap, clap!” when the toddler took a bite.

The Gyswyts, Jadonne and Paul, a clean-cut, quiet man of 41, began to mentally brace themselves for the possibility of a transplant. In mid-November of last year, they met with Dr. McDiarmid at UCLA. A charming woman in her late 40s, McDiarmid is the soul of UCLA’s pediatric liver transplant program. Like Busuttil, the cheerful Australian native is devoted to her work. One of McDiarmid’s primary responsibilities is evaluating whether a child is a suitable candidate for a transplant. In Andrew’s case, “the first visit was to decide whether this was it for Andrew’s liver,” recalls Jadonne. “Dr. McDiarmid asked us a lot of questions.”

The Gyswyts weighed their options. Andrew was sick, in fact, quite sick. But perhaps not that sick. An ultrasound actually showed a normal-sized liver. The family’s neighbors in Laguna Niguel pointed out how good Andrew looked and asked, “Do you really want to put your little boy through all that?”

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