Opinions & Features January 20, 2021 at 02:00 pm

This ‘miracle baby’ survived COVID-19 and a liver transplant before his first birthday

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey January 20, 2021 at 02:00 pm

January 20, 2021 at 02:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Kasen Donerlson survived COVID and a liver transplant before he celebrated his first birthday -- Photo via Mitayah Donerlson on Facebook

Kasen Donerlson just turned a year old, but he most definitely has the heart of a fighter, and his mother couldn’t be any prouder and honored to call him her son. Nicknamed the “miracle baby”, little Kasen is receiving all the plaudits after he heroically survived COVID-19 as well as a liver transplant before he celebrated his first birthday.

In an interview with Good Morning America, Kasen’s mother, Mitayah Donerlson, said her son’s previously deteriorating health started shortly after she gave birth to him. Though he was born healthy, she recalled he had to be hospitalized for a few days as a result of breathing difficulties and jaundice – complications she said the doctors told her would get better as he got older. Instead, his condition rather aggravated.

Following further tests and two months after he was conceived, doctors diagnosed him with a severe case of biliary atresia, a “condition in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked,” the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains on its website.

After efforts by medical officials to try and repair the affected bile ducts proved futile, Donerlson was informed the next option was a liver transplant, and he was subsequently added to the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s transplant waiting list.

“We had endless hospital visits and we would be there for five or seven or 10 days because of the severity of the disease and the complications that Kasen was having,” Donerlson told Good Morning America. “He would have fevers that wouldn’t come down.”

While they were waiting for a match, Donerlson said another disaster struck after she, together with her partner, niece and Kasen, all contracted COVID-19. “On Nov. 21 he woke up that morning and was extremely hot. His body was like touching a stove,” she said. “I just cried because I knew the hospital was going to admit us, but I didn’t know they were going to tell us that he was COVID-positive.”

Despite spending a few days in the hospital after his diagnosis, Kasen’s condition did not really deteriorate as the only major complication was the fever. Donerlson also revealed things started taking a turn for the better after the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh informed her they had found a transplant match for Kasen. That was two weeks after he was hospitalized due to the COVID-19 scare.

“All I could do was cry. They were mommy tears and tears of joy. I was just so happy,” she said. “I always knew he was going to get a transplant — that was my faith — but to finally get that call and get that message that the surgery was scheduled and to have that relief from the burden on my shoulders dropped, it felt so good.

“I’m smiling from ear to ear right now because I can literally see that moment and feel that moment again.”

The surgery this time around was successful and Kasen almost immediately started showing signs of improvement, including gaining weight and finally having clear eyes. “His eyes have always been greenish and yellowish, his entire life, and he woke up from surgery with clear eyes,” she told Good Morning America. “I was overjoyed by seeing that.”

Little Kasen celebrated his first birthday on January 14 while still on admission at the hospital, and his mother paid tribute to his incredible milestone via a post on Facebook. “Words cant explain your Strength, Courage, and Determination. I am HONORED to be your Mother,” she captioned alongside the photos of the celebration. “Thank you for being my instructor. You’re my  instructor to lessons that I could  only learned from You. I Love You  beyond measures… Keep showing the world the impossible Are Possible.. HAPPY BIRTHDAY KASEN.”

Words cant explain your Strength, Courage, and Determination. I am HONORED to be your Mother. Thank you for being my…

Posted by Mitayah Donerlson on Thursday, January 14, 2021

Donerlson is also excited about the future. “What I’m looking forward to is Kasen walking and talking,” she said. “I’m so excited for him to get those skills and for my family to bond back together as we were before all the ups and downs and the hospital visits.”

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