Infant Matches to Donated Liver After 40 Minutes on Organ Wait List

Daniel McCabe was born with rare condition that affected his bile ducts.

ByGillian Mohney
December 23, 2016, 12:02 PM

— -- The family of an infant boy who was critically ill is celebrating after he received a vital liver transplant in under an hour, instead of waiting weeks, months or years.

Daniel McCabe was born with biliary atresia, a rare condition where bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not have normal openings, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

At 5 months old, McCabe's health started to decline. His doctors decided to put him on the organ transplant list to receive a new liver from a donor.

Waiting for an organ match often takes months or even years. Every day, approximately 22 people die while waiting for a transplant, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

But just 40 minutes after Daniel was put on the organ transplant list on Dec. 13, his gastroenterologist and pediatrician, Dr. Jeffrey Brown, told his mother, Melody McCabe, the good news, according to a statement from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

"The doctor came in and was really quiet," McCabe told ABC News. "He finally said 'He said he has a liver.'"

McCabe said she felt both instant relief for her son and sadness for the donor's family. "I said 'Are you serious?'"

"I couldn't’ help but think of the [donor] family and what they're going through and then I felt glad that my son wasn’t going to die," McCabe said.

Matching for an organ this quickly is extremely rare. Daniel is just one of 43 people nationwide in the last five years to have waited less than 40 minutes for a life-saving match, according to UNOS and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

"This is one of the most incredible things that has happened in the five years that I’ve been here," Justin Boese, Organ Procurement Specialist at Lurie Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. "The shortest wait time I have seen here was at least 12 hours, so 40 minutes is very unusual."

Hospital officials confirmed that Daniel is doing well after the surgery and continues to recover in the pediatric intensive care unit. His mother said she expects him to be out of the hospital in a few days.

"Even hours after surgery," McCabe said. "He still looked a lot better and his color -- it was the first time I had seen him not yellow."

Daniel wasn't the only person helped by this liver donation -- doctors were able to split the donated organ in two so another patient could also benefit.

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