Jamie Lee Russell Cormier was born on September 26, 1988. His sister, Kara Rae, was about to turn two when Jamie was born. Jamie’s father was in the Canadian Armed Forces and we had been transferred to Trenton Ontario from Victoria B.C. a few months before Jamie was born. When Jamie was five weeks old he had jaundice and other suspicious symptoms, which led to him being admitted to hospital on November 5, 1988.
Over the next few days, a number of tests and x-rays were done. Watching my child poked and probed was very difficult to handle. Little did I know this was the beginning of a long journey into a world I didn’t know much about.
Jamie was diagnosed with biliary artresia, a disease of the liver. He had an operation called the Kasai Procedure to try and create a new pathway for bile flow using a piece of intestine. But Jamie grew weaker over the next few weeks. It was so difficult watching him get worse and not be able to stop it. In January, Jamie’s bowel began bleeding and he was transported back to the hospital. Once again our family was separated. We were lucky to know two families that could help us care for our daughter while we were with Jamie, but it was very difficult on Kara, who was still too young to understand what was happening.
The doctors decided the Kasai procedure had failed. On February 17, 1989, Jamie had further surgery and his assessment for a liver transplant began. Early in March we were again able to take Jamie home.
On July 8, 1989, a liver finally became available in Newfoundland, but it was too large. We were devastated and scared that there wouldn’t be another one in time. But on July 16, another donor was found. It was such an emotional time because in order for our son to live, another child had to die. We felt a lot of pain for those parents even though we didn’t know them. Before transplant, I held Jamie in my arms and rocked him for hours. When I had to hand Jamie over to the nurse, I really didn’t know if I would see him alive again.
The transplant took 16 hours and Jamie required further surgery in ensuing days. He ended up back in intensive care. A blood clot was discovered on the side of the liver and was removed, but Jamie’s condition wasn’t good. Jamie’s health improved, although it continued to have many ups and downs.
I raised Kara and Jamie as a single parent for many years, but the three of us are a team and will continue this journey together. When we returned to Victoria in 1992, we were very lucky to become associated with the David Foster Foundation who backed our return from Ontario to Victoria because at that time, we had to prove financial support to make the move. There are so many angels connected with the Foundation to whom I will be eternally grateful.
Jamie is currently 23 years old and is hoping to enter the field of journalism. Jamie is a volunteer with the David Foster Foundation and says he wants to help others who are going through what we went through as a family those many years ago. We cannot thank David and his wonderful foundation enough for the help we received in Jamie’s transplant journey.
-Kathy Cormier, Jamie’s mom