Nearly 30 years later, tiny transplant patient has beaten the odds

RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER. Now a proud mom, Rita Erickson was nearly a celebrity at age 2 when she received a liver transplant that almost failed, but ultimately kept her alive. Nearly 30 years later she lives in Elk River with fianc√© John Fink and daughter Theresa Rose.
Nearly 30 years ago, neighbors in Columbia Heights rallied around Rita Erickson because her liver was failing. Now she has a baby of her own in Elk River. 

STAR-TRIBUNE | Erin Adler

In 1987, 2-year-old Rita Erickson was propelled into the spotlight because her liver was failing. She needed a transplant, doctors said, and her Columbia Heights family needed help paying for the surgery.

The media coverage that followed — the Star Tribune wrote about her five times in two weeks — documented several successful community fundraisers and her liver transplant, rare for a toddler. The operation nearly failed, but at the last minute, her new liver began functioning. Rita lived — and faded out of the public eye.

“It’s very interesting for me to sit down and read about it [in articles] because I really don’t remember it,” she said.

Today, Rita, 30, has a job in the financial industry, a home in Elk River and a boyfriend she’s planning to marry. And she’s doing two things doctors said she never would: She’s given birth to a baby girl and will likely stop taking her last anti-rejection drug, prescribed so her body wouldn’t attack her liver. Continue reading 
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