When Geoffrey Daniel Byrne was born Aug. 10, 2001, says his grandmother, Mary Byrne, he was "the most perfect baby you ever saw."
And he still is, Mary points out.
It's only Geoffrey's liver that is imperfect to the unfortunate degree that if he does not get a liver transplant within the next 30 days, he will not survive the disease that has put him in danger: biliary atresia, which describes the congenital absence orclosure of the ductsthat drain bile from the liver.
But no one who has ever held this otherwise flawless child starting with his parents, Greg Byrne and Becca Jones is focusing on that unthinkable possibility. Instead, they are doing everything within their power to make sure Geoffrey gets the long and happy life he deserves.
There are two ways to make that possible, his grandmother explains. Both provide light at the end of this tunnel for Greg, Becca and the crack team of University of Southern California medical professionals who since Friday have had Geoffrey in their care and both involve liver transplants, which are uncommon for children under one year of age.
The most favored option, which cannot occur without tragedy of its own, is that an infant liver donor is found meaning that someone else would have to lose a child for Geoffrey to be saved. The good news and bad news: that has not yet happened.
Since his biliary atresia was first diagnosed four months ago, Geoffrey has been listed on a national donor list by the liver transplant team at the University Medical Center in Tucson. But even if an infant liver is found in time there is no way of predicting if it will or will not it must meet Geoffrey's blood type and size.
If that chain of necessary events does not unfold in Geoffrey's favor, employment of the second option is nearly a certainty: the infant will receive a transplanted liver from a living donor probably one of his parents.
Because the adult-donor procedure is not practiced in Arizona, Mary Byrne says, it would have to be performed at UCLA, where Geoffrey would also have to be hospitalized and monitored for at least three months afterwards.
Over the past four months, this six-month-old has:
Endured a "Kasai Procedure" a surgical attempt to repair the hepatic ducts coming in and out of his liver that was later deemed unnecessary because he needed a transplant.
Been hospitalized numerous times. During those stays, Geoffrey was required to submit to countless blood and urine tests. He also underwent numerous exploitative procedures including ultrasound, radioactive-traced x-rays and a trio of endoscopic operations.
A complicated matter
As difficult as Geoffrey's life has been, however, it would have been worse if the discovery of his biliary atresia had come later than it did.
On average, there is one case of biliary atresia out of every 15,000 live births. Females are affected slightly more often than males. In the United States, approximately 300 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Due to complications associated with the disease, the liver of those it victimizes commonly swells to almost twice normal size, which causes the spleen to enlarge as well. This, in turn, causes scarring and sclerosis; enlarges and puts pressure on the blood veins; and creates fluid build-up around the intestines.
Meanwhile, jaundice is prevalent and causes itching; the stomach becomes smaller, requiring more frequent feeding; and the diaphragm becomes constricted, making breathing more difficult.
Geoffrey has had all of these symptoms.
"To see Geoffrey, you would not know he is sick," Becca wrote in a letter to the Roundup. "He is a beautiful, strong and happy baby. When he is uncomfortable, you can see what a fighter he is.
"It's incredible how many people have just come knocking on our door or calling with prayers and good thoughts," says Mary Byrne. "What everyone doesn't want Greg and Becca to worry about is finances. Although their insurance is paying for the medical end of things, they've had to take time off from work, travel, and purchase lodging and food as they are having to do right now in Los Angeles. That's put a bind on their finances, and they have at times fallen behind."
According to one family friend, Greg and Becca have so far spent $15,000 chasing a healthy, happy life for their son.
To help Geoffrey and his parents, monetary donations can be made through Wells Fargo Bank, account No. 1003739826.