Brother: Butler teen gets liver after family makes public appeal
A Butler County high school freshman underwent a life-saving transplant at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on Saturday, just hours after his family made a desperate public plea for a healthy liver.
“All I know is we got a liver, and it'll work,” Linda Snow said of her son, Adam, 14. “In my heart, the word got out to the right people, and our prayers were answered. Whatever it is, it's a miracle.”
Snow said officials did not tell her family who the donor was, how the donor died or whether the family of the deceased directed that the liver go to Adam, whose story first appeared in local media on Friday night.
Hours after that, Linda Snow said, Adam's story had gotten out across the country through Facebook and Twitter. By early Saturday morning, the family had the stunning news: A perfectly matching liver was available. Adam began surgery around 3 a.m. Saturday and ended around noon.
“I've personally never seen a family reach out to the public like this,” said Misty Enos, associate director of community outreach for the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, which coordinates organ donations in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and a portion of New York. “They're obviously very passionate about their son's life, like anyone else would be.”
Adam Snow, a ninth-grader at Butler Area Intermediate High School, fell ill within the past three weeks, and his health quickly deteriorated. Doctors told the family his liver was damaged by an unknown virus, Snow said, and that her son was at the top of transplant waiting list.
Within the past couple of days, Snow said, doctors told the family that Adam was too ill for a partial liver donated by a living family member. Adam likely had days to live unless a matching complete liver could be recovered from a deceased donor.
One doctor, she said, urged the family to reach out to the community.
“I couldn't just sit there and watch my son die,” Snow said, adding that family members started posting messages on Facebook and other social media sites and making phone calls to local media.
An hour after his surgery ended, Adam Snow's color had improved, his mother said. While doctors are optimistic, she said, they cautioned that it'll be a few days before they can call the transplant a success. Enos said the Snows' public plea “creates awareness for donation and lets the public know how important it is to register to be a donor and be aware of this.”
But the plea also created some confusion, she said, as members of the public called CORE asking why the agency could not give Adam a liver.
“It doesn't work that way,” Enos said, adding that CORE must follow federal guidelines set by the United Network for Organ Sharing, a nonprofit agency that manages the country's organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.
CORE collects information, including age, height, weight and blood type, about donors. Transplant centers provide similar information about patients, along with how sick the patient is. The United Network for Organ Sharing uses the data to determine who is eligible for a transplant and ranks them by urgency.
Enos said a family of a donor can direct an organ donation to a certain recipient, but CORE “can never influence a donor family to do that. We can't have anything to do with that.”
Linda Snow said that her family would like to find the family that donated the liver to her son.
“There just no words or anything you can tell a person,” Linda Snow said, “You're sorry they lost someone, but if it helps any, it's important to us to make sure they know what they've done for us.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.