Living donor transplant gives new hope to 6-month-old in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS – A woman from New Jersey now calls a baby girl from Florissant her “liver bestie.”

Nadia Hussain, 39, and Eden Hernandez, 6 months old, had never met until they underwent a living donor transplant at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. They now “share” Nadia’s liver and something more.    

Just when it seemed everything was ending for Eden, there came a new beginning.

“It’s hard to imagine just a little over a week she was on death’s doorstep,” Sarah Hernandez, Eden’s mother, said. 

Now, less than two weeks after the transplant, Eden is healthy for the first time in her life, according to Dr. Janis Stoll, a Washington University gastroenterologist and pediatric hepatologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Eden suffered from ‘biliary atresia’. It causes liver failure and death. Eden was running out of time.

“We were at the point of ‘How much longer does she have?’” Kevin Hernandez, Eden’s father, said.

Sarah posted a flier on social media looking for a living donor hero. Days later, one flew in from New Jersey.  

It was Nadia. 

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“I just feel so honored that Eden has my liver,” she said.

While there is a distant family connection, there is no blood relation. Nadia’s husband and Eden’s father are second cousins.

Nadia and Eden happen to share type O blood, a must for the living donor transplant. After further medical checks, doctors found Nadia to be the strongest transplant match for Eden. 

“My eyes started welling with tears. I felt so grateful that maybe there was going to be an answer—a light at the end of the tunnel for them,” Nadia said.

In the span of a single day, Nadia made arrangements to go to St. Louis for the procedure, leaving behind her husband and three children, ages one to three. 

“We took out the left lateral segment from Nadia to donate to Eden,” Dr. Stoll said. “It’s a very small piece of the liver. Nadia’s will regrow back to the normal size. Eden’s will grow with her as she gets older. I think it’s such a gift of life and gift of hope for everybody … amazing hero for Eden, what a gift!”

“If I, as a mother, can give hope to another mother and save her baby, there is nothing in the universe I could do that could be more important than that,” Nadia said.

Her youngest child, a daughter, is just a few months older than Eden. She can’t bear to think of parents being robbed of the one thing more precious than any other: a future for their children.

“We couldn’t see that (future) before transplant. It was hard to see it,” Eden’s dad said. “Now, we see endless possibilities for whatever she wants to do.”

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“I haven’t even processed it because it’s happened so fast. It’s hard to know; what do you say, because it’s such a huge gift,” Eden’s mom said.

“I would do it a million times over,” Nadia said. “Even if they were like, ‘Eden needs a kidney now,’  I’d be like, ‘Take it, just take it.”

Dr. Stoll said the future was indeed bright for successful transplant patients like Eden.

“They go off to college. They become nurses and physicians. They do amazing things in the world,” the doctor said.

Along with Eden, Nadia had recovered well from the procedure. 

A hospital official said both Eden and Nadia would be discharged from St. Louis Children’s Hospital today.

Nadia was headed back home to her family in New Jersey with plans to return often to St. Louis to celebrate milestones in a life nearly lost—the life of her “liver bestie.”

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