On August 24th, 2007 Jennifer and Trieu welcomed their baby girl Taya into the world. For the first few weeks everything was wonderful and Jennifer, Trieu and Taryn, Taya’s older sister, were all excited to have Taya at home.
Taya had lingering jaundice that the doctor thought might be cause by breastmilk, and the family waited to see if Taya’s health would improve. When Taya was ten weeks old, and the jaundice had not improved the family reached out to one of their friends who was a nurse and asked for her opinion. Their friend, who was familiar with the signs of liver failure, worried that was the cause of the jaundice and suggested that the family take Taya to emergency right away. As soon as the family arrived at emergency, the medical team looking at Taya knew that something was very wrong.
Taya was diagnosed with biliary atresia, which is a childhood disease that leads to liver failure. At 11 weeks old Taya underwent a five hour surgery called the Kasai procedure to prevent further damage to her liver and to save her life. While the surgery was successful, the family knew that Taya would need a liver transplant. Thinking back on this time, Trieu remembers “we always knew that Taya would need a transplant as she had a chronic progressive liver disease, but we were never sure when. Always living with that in our minds was difficult, always wondering, when?”
When Taya was 10 years old she developed hepatopulmonary syndrome which is a condition that causes shortness of breath and low oxygen levels. This condition was caused by Taya’s liver disease. In August 2017 knowing that Taya’s condition was worsening, Taya’s doctors placed her on the transplant list. The family waited to receive a call telling them that they had found a match for Taya, but the call didn’t come. Given Taya’s medical condition Jennifer began to be worked up to see if she could be a living liver donor for Taya.
Jennifer was approved by the medical team to be a match for Taya, and the transplant surgery was scheduled. The family prepared to leave their hometown of Calgary and travel to Edmonton for the surgery. Jennifer and Trieu had to take leaves of absence from work, and Taryn, who was in junior high, left school. The family re-located to Edmonton and on December 12th 2017 Taya and Jennifer went into surgery. Recalling this time brings up memories of feeling helplessness and anxiety for Trieu, “Going through the transplant was hard on the family because not only was Taya going to have to endure this very scary procedure but her mom as well. Essentially 50% of our family was going to go through very serious surgeries. No words can describe the emotion that I went through pacing as I waited for any news from the surgeons.” After six and a half hours, Jennifer was finished surgery. After twelve hours Taya was out of surgery as well. Jennifer’s gift of life saved Taya.
The family remained in Edmonton for three and a half months after transplant as Jennifer and Taya recovered. For Trieu “the biggest struggle [during our time in Edmonton] was definitely having to watch Taya go through so much. She is only a child and to see her in any kind of pain or discomfort was heartbreaking. Everything else didn’t matter as long as she was ok. Whenever she had a set back we would be so fearful and full of anxiety, worried that the transplant did not work, that her body was rejecting the liver and she would have to go through it all again.” Despite Trieu’s worries, after 3 and a half months the family was able return to Edmonton.
Because of the support of the Foundation’s donors and partners, we were able to assist the family leading up to, during and after transplant. Jennifer and Trieu shared some kind words with us about the support the Foundation provided, “the Foundation went above and beyond what we ever could imagine. We knew that they could help us, but the extent to which they did and with the kindness and compassion they offered, we are extremely grateful for. They were able to relieve any financial stresses that we faced while we were going through some of the darkest days of our lives. To have that peace of mind so that we could focus on just getting Taya well was invaluable.”
December 12th, 2018 marks one year post transplant for Taya. Despite some minor bumps along the way within the first few months, Taya is doing very well. Taya will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life, and she has gone done from taking 12 pills a day to 4. She will also have routine blood work and doctors visits so her medical team can monitor her enzyme levels and the success of the transplant. Jennifer and Trieu are grateful that they get to watch their daughters grow up together and enjoy being kids once again.