Dad Saves 3-Month-Old Son After Mother's Intuition Raises Red Flags

·Writer
image

After newborn Caleb was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, the perfect donor stepped up: his dad. Caleb’s mom shares the “mind-blowing” saga the couple endured to help their little boy recover. (Photo: ABC Inc., WABC-TV).

Shortly after her son Caleb was born, Brittany Munn knew there was something seriously wrong with her baby. What she didn’t know then was that her husband, Brian, 30, held the key to saving their third child as a living donor for the life-saving liver transplant he required at just 4 months of age. And now, thanks to Brittany’s intuition and Brian’s selflessness, their son is a healthy, happy 8-month-old. He’s also inspiration for the couple’s new mission: to raise awareness for organ donation. Their family, after all, wouldn’t be complete today without it.

STORY: Happy Ending for Ailing Twin Whose Sister Got Dad’s Liver

“When Caleb was discharged from the hospital he was jaundiced, but the pediatrician told us it was nothing to worry about,” the Binghamton, N.Y., mother, 27, tells Yahoo Parenting. “We trusted the physician, but by the second month, Caleb was still off-color. Otherwise he seemed healthy. I was getting lots of comments from people about it, and I was like, ‘I know my baby is yellow. I don’t know what’s going on!’”

STORY: Teacher Says She’s ‘Lucky’ to Give Her 6-Year-Old Student a Kidney

image

(Photo: Caleb’s Journey/Facebook)

The doctor suggested that the problem was breast milk jaundice and offered to test Caleb’s liver at his 4-month appointment, but Brittany didn’t want to wait that long. “I fought to get him a liver test even though it was three days before Christmas,” she recalls, adding that the results were all highly elevated but an ultrasound looked normal. Still seeking answers, she enlisted a gastroenterologist. “He saw Caleb’s test results and said, ‘I’m coming in to see you on my day off Christmas Eve,’” she says. “I was terrified.”

But that was just the beginning of the family’s ordeal. By Jan. 12, Caleb was diagnosed with the rare liver disease biliary atresia and admitted to the hospital. “Only one in 15,000 kids in the U.S. have it,” says Brittany, now an expert on the condition by necessity. “And they’re usually female.” Surgery just two days later offered them hope “that maybe we could go home and start living a normal life,” she says.

But the procedure failed, and little Caleb began accumulating bile in his belly that swelled it so much, the snaps on his onesies kept popping open. The gastroenterologist sent them to the local ER, where doctors decided to whisk them down — via a five-hour ambulance ride in a snowstorm — to Children’s Hospital at Montefiore the next day, on March 2.

It was clear that the situation was dire, says Brittany, who had left her other two children, son Noah, 3, and daughter Elise, 2, with Brian back home. She was told that Caleb would need a liver transplant — from someone with an A- or O-positive blood type. “I was turned down because they said you have to be at least six months postpartum to be considered,” she says. “And Brian is AB positive so he didn’t even put in application. We were devastated.”

After a few weeks in the hospital, Brian came for the weekend. They’d had a friend of a friend tested to be a donor only to discover at the “make or break” MRI test that she wasn’t compatible. “That broke us,” admits Brittany, who by now had gone weeks without seeing her other two children. “I was feeling guilty that I didn’t really hug them very long before I had to rush out the door to get Caleb to the ER,” she confesses. “I wasn’t thinking that it would be weeks until I saw them again, and that was eating me up. There were many nights that I cried myself to sleep in the hospital because I missed my other two babies.”

As soon as the doctor managing Caleb’s care saw Brian at the hospital, she asked why he hadn’t applied to be a donor. Then, despite what the couple had initially been told, the doctor relayed some surprising news. “She told us that when you’re related that closely to a child, blood type doesn’t matter,” says Brittany. “Caleb was under 1, so his immune system wasn’t going to be an issue.”

image

(Photo: ABC Inc., WABC-TV).

Brian was tested immediately, and four days later they knew he had “the perfect piece of liver to give Caleb,” says Brittany.

“It was a huge relief. The two of us were like, ‘Finally. We can see an end in sight,’” Brian tells Yahoo Parenting. “I was overjoyed that I could give my little boy a second chance and that we didn’t have to wait any longer to be on the road to recovery.”

image

(Photo: Caleb’s Journey/Facebook)

Since the March 20 transplant surgery, Brian has “bounced back wonderfully,” says Brittany — though Caleb has been back in the operating room three times since his transplant due to complications with healing. After his third surgery, though, Brittany says things “finally felt right.” She was able to hold Caleb again and as he continued to get better, they got the green light to go home upstate on April 13.

image

(Photo: Caleb’s Journey/Facebook)

“I couldn’t wait to get back,” she says. “Everything had happened so quickly but we were blessed that it did because there are other kids with the same scenario who wait months for an organ, and for us it was a matter of weeks. Caleb’s health deteriorated so quickly that we wouldn’t have been able to save him otherwise.”

Looking back, Brittany says the experience is “mind blowing.” The family even had a doctor admit to them after the fact that she didn’t think Caleb was going to make it seeing how severe his condition was at one point. Now the mother says she’s sharing their saga in interviews and on their Caleb’s Journey Facebook page to raise awareness for organ donation.

“I joked with the nurses that I earned my scrubs while we were in the hospital,” Brittany says, noting that what helped get her through the hardest moments was support from her family, friends, and church community. “I really don’t think I could have done it on my own. My faith brought me a strange sense of peace that things would go OK.”

image

(Photo: Caleb’s Journey/Facebook)

Miraculously, they did. Today Caleb is well enough to play and even roll around, which Brittany says is “incredible so soon after surgery. He’s just thriving.” And thanks to dad’s liver, “he is pink-skinned for the first time,” she says. “He’s not glowing orange anymore.”

To donate to the family, who are fundraising to offset the cost of their medical care, visit their GoFundMe page and their You Caring campaign.

Please follow @YahooParenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Have an interesting story to share about your family? Email us at YParenting (at) Yahoo.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting