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Butler teen, family raise money for transplant research

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 5:59 p.m.
Liver transplant recipient Adam Snow, 16, of Butler, left, fishes with professional Rob Papp.  Snow wants to become a professional fisherman.
Liver transplant recipient Adam Snow, 16, of Butler, left, fishes with professional Rob Papp. Snow wants to become a professional fisherman.

Linda Snow of Butler sees a miracle daily when her son, Adam, sits down for breakfast.

“Every morning, I look at him and think, ‘I almost lost you,'” said Snow, 52.

In fall 2012, Adam, then 14, was diagnosed with acute liver failure when an unknown virus attacked his liver. Within a month, his health began to rapidly deteriorate, and he was placed in a medically induced coma at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

In November, doctors said Adam, who had been placed at the top of the donor transplant list, had only hours to live without a new liver, Snow said.

That's when the miracle happened.

Adam's family, which includes his two older sisters and three older brothers, took to social media to plead for a new liver for Adam. “We didn't want to give up just yet,” said Adam's sister, Kelly Edwards, 28, of Butler, who shared his story on Facebook.

Within hours, the Prayers for Adam Facebook page had 50,000 hits and more than 8,000 “likes,” Edwards said. Local and national media picked up on the story. Soon, the family began receiving messages of support, as well as offers from people around the world willing to donate a portion of their livers.

Linda Snow said everyone in the family, including his 72-year-old grandfather, was willing to donate but because of his diagnosis, he required a matching complete liver from a deceased donor in order to survive.

“I think everyone wanted to throw in their whole liver,” joked Adam's older brother, 17-year-old Mike Snow. “There was a lot support there.”

A matching donor came through from the Center for Organ Recovery and Education just hours after Adam's story made local news. He underwent a life-saving transplant early on Nov. 10, 2012, at Children's. A blood clot that traveled to his head shortly after the operation required further surgery that left him with 150 stitches, but it was the only complication.

Snow said she and Adam have since reached out to the family of the donor through the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, but have received no response. She hopes to one day thank them for the gift of her son's life.

“We would like to tell the donor family that although their loss was tragic, we would hope they would find a little comfort knowing that they have saved this young man's life,” she said. “In our eyes, there is no greater gift to our family and that we will be forever grateful.”

Today, besides the 17-inch scar bisecting his stomach, and the medication he'll need to take daily for the rest of his life, things are back to normal for Adam — with one exception.

The 16-year-old sophomore at Butler Intermediate High School said he never again would take life for granted.

“I always try to make the right choices and to not do anything I think I'm going to regret,” he said.

Part of that new lease on life includes raising money to benefit Children's Hospital and transplant research. Prior to being struck by the unknown virus, Adam, a former football player at Butler, was a normal, active teen.

“He was just like any other kid, healthy and outgoing,” Linda Snow said.

Dr. Rakesh Sindhi, director of pediatric transplant research and the co-director of pediatric transplantation at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said Adam's case is not unusual. Viral infections are one of the most common reasons behind acute liver failure in healthy individuals, he said.

“These things do happen,” he said. “It could happen to you, it could happen to me. It's very important for people to remember these are unpredictable events. It's very important that people decide to donate. That's the only solution.”

Last weekend, Adam and his family held a spaghetti dinner and Texas Hold ‘em tournament at the Moose Lodge in Butler to benefit transplant research. The teen, who wants to become a professional fisherman, also is looking for sponsorships to enter fishing tournaments. Earnings from the tournaments will be donated to Children's Hospital for transplant research, he said.

“There's still a lot of research to be done with transplants, so I figured I'd do my part and try to save other people,” he said.

Jessica Bruni Sinichak is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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