ShareThis Page

Fundraiser in Bridgeville to help family after liver transplant

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Rachel Thomas, 3, of Cecil Township enjoys some play time with her father, John, during an outing to Cecil Township Municipal Park.
Randy Jarosz | For Trib Total Media
Rachel Thomas, 3, of Cecil Township enjoys some play time with her father, John, during an outing to Cecil Township Municipal Park.

Less than three months after receiving a new liver, Rachel Thomas, 3, was playing on the swing set and picking up crabapples at Cecil Township Municipal Park.

Rachel's liver came from a familiar source, so to speak — her father, John.

John and Kristi Thomas of Cecil and their four children are members of Crossroads Church in Bridgeville as is friend Tawney Roddy, who is helping to organize a “Bash the Brownies and the Birdies!” fund raiser from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 6 at the Chartiers Valley Shopping Center. The event is an effort to begin raising $30,000 to help defray transplant-related costs.

Fans can donate money for an opportunity to bash a Buick Skylark — painted in the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers' rivals — with a sledgehammer. The afternoon also will include games for children and auctions of Steelers merchandise and game tickets.

John Thomas, 33, said a “black spot” was found through a sonogram before Rachel was born, and she was diagnosed with a choledochal cyst, which forms on bile ducts.

Rachel also was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a disorder in which bile does not properly flow. She underwent surgery in September 2011 to connect her liver and intestines, and then was diagnosed with portal hypertension, in which the liver does not allow blood to flow properly.

“They found her liver was full of cysts. Those kept acting as pockets and breeding grounds for the bacteria, and every time they put her on an antibiotic it would take care of it for a while” but the bacteria eventually became resistant to the antibiotic, he said.

“We went from ‘She's going to need a liver down the line at some point' to ‘She needs it and she needs it now.' ”

About a month later, Rachel was admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. John Thomas went to UPMC Montefiore, and a liver transplant took place June 2.

Both were released after only nine days. Doctors had said to anticipate being in the hospital about a month, Kristi Thomas said.

To prepare for the transplant, John Thomas was tasked with losing a few pounds. “Apparently, it worked out well,” he said. One quarter of his liver was transplanted into Rachel.

Kristi Thomas said her daughter bounced back quickly. “As soon as she woke up in the pediatric intensive care unit, the first thing she tried to do was climb out of the crib,” she said. “Needless to say, we got kicked out of there really quickly.”

She said Rachel's recovery has gone well.

“The liver will regenerate. It will grow with her. It's a special organ that way,” Kristi Thomas said. “She's had no issues with rejection. She just improves constantly.”

John Thomas said his liver would grow back in two to three months. He's still sore at times, and coughing and sneezing previously hurt.

“Last week we ended up at Kennywood,” he said. “The Exterminator was a bad idea but otherwise, I'm mostly back to everything.”

David Mayernik Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.