When three and a half year old Alexander Leesman came into this world, his parents thought they had a perfectly healthy boy. "Until our eight week check up at which point we discovered he was jaundice."
Alexander's skin turned yellow. He was soon diagnosed with a rare liver disease at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Elizabeth Leesmann, his mother, said, "He did not have a bile duct so in turn bile backed up into his liver... Essentially poisoning his liver. To where a liver transplant was needed."
But the organ donation waiting list wasn't a viable option. "He was dying waiting for a transplant," said the Director of Pediatric Transplantation at St. Louis Children's Hospital. And Dr. Jeffrey Lowell needed to move quickly.
The boy's mother said, "His disease had progressed to a point that we had to look at a living liver donor." Dr. Lowell said a liver transplant from a living donor is fairly uncommon across the country, but not at Children's. "About a third of our transplants, liver transplants come from living donors. Most are family members," said the doctor.
Fortunately for Alexander, one of his family members was a match. "That was me." Elizabeth Leesmann was the one to save her own son's life.
And three years ago, Elizabeth entered surgery to give Alexander a piece of her liver. Dr. Jeffrey Lowell said, "Liver is this amazing organ. Probably immortal. Probably the only one that is and will grow with the baby when we transplant it so as he gets bigger, the liver gets bigger."
As soon as Elizabeth's liver was removed, it was transported to Children's, where her son was waiting. "And a new life starts," said the doctor. It's one of 216 pediatric liver transplants completed at Children's Hospital, home to one of the best transplant programs.
So, how is Alexander doing today? "My liver's better," he said. Elizabeth added, "It's a special bond. Every once in a while I ask him, 'Where is his liver?' And he'll point to me and then I'll point back to him and he'll say, "Well, that's my liver. And he says, 'I'm taking good care of it mommy.'"