An Illinois father found the best motivation to lose weight: his infant daughter. Thirty-five-year-old Eduardo Camargo lost more than 40 lbs. in less than two months to become an eligible liver donor for his daughter Jazlyn, who was diagnosed with biliary atresia — a condition in which a liver's bile ducts are blocked or absent. Shortly after birth, at just 5 months old, doctors at the Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern Memorial Hospital confirmed Jazlyn needed a liver transplant or else she would be at high risk for liver failure and death, ABC News reports. That's when Eduardo took action.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) says biliary atresia can lead to scarring, loss of liver tissue, and cirrhosis as a result of the bile being trapped and built-up. Biliary atresia is suspected to have multiple causes linked to an event in the womb or around the time of birth such as a problem during liver and bile duct development in the womb or a genetic mutation, which is a permanent change in a gene’s structure. The condition is rare and only affects about one out of every 18,000 infants, especially females, premature babies, and children of Asian or African-American heritage.
Despite Jazlyn’s two surgeries to prevent liver failure, the infant’s condition continued to worsen. Eduardo did not hesitate when doctors told the family a liver transplant would be necessary to save his daughter’s life. "Right away I said it had to be me and not my wife," Eduardo told ABC News. "I have two other daughters and they need a mother more than they need a father." The father’s efforts quickly came to a halt when doctors told the 210-pound, 35-year-old man diagnosed with fatty liver disease, he could not be an organ donor unless he lost weight. Although having fat in the liver is normal, Eduardo fell in the range of having more than five to 10 percent of fat, a common characteristic of fatty liver disease. Jazlyn’s dad, motivated by his daughter’s condition, began to run six miles an hour every day to lose as much weight as possible to save his infant daughter’s life.
"I was weak in the knees, crying when I was running,” Eduardo told the Chicago Sun-Times. “In my head I would say, ‘Please God, let me help my daughter.’ And I would get watery eyes. I just kept going.” Eduardo's weight loss timing was crucial to the success of 7-month-old Jazlyn’s surgery in 2012. After getting his percentage of fat in his liver to below two percent, Eduardo also slimmed to 180 lbs. and was given the OK to undergo the liver transplant. The day before the scheduled surgery, the infant began to vomit blood the day before, a strong indicator that her liver was failing.
After approximately 20 percent of Eduardo's liver was removed by surgeons at Northwestern, Jazlyn is now considered to be just like any other kid. However, the 20-month-old infant suffered some complications after using anti-rejection medications following the transplant and had to visit the hospital once a week for a blood draw. Jazlyn will now have to remain on immunosuppressant medications for rest of her life. Eduardo continues to feel grateful to have his daughter around and believes his efforts were not in vain. "When you see your child running up and down, you know something good came out of it." All of the adults in the family have signed the organ donor cards on the back of their drivers’ licenses.
Biliary atresia is usually first treated with a surgery called the Kasai procedure, which connects the bile draining from the liver directly to the intestinal tract. Without the surgery, infants with the condition are unlikely to live past age 2. Therefore, doctors believe the procedure is most effective in infants younger than 3 months old, since they haven’t yet developed permanent liver damage, says the American Liver Foundation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports over 28,000 people received organ transplants in 2012, with those in the 50-to-64 age range receiving the most transplants. Despite these statistics, there are more than enough people waiting for an organ to fill a large football stadium twice over, according to the website. To learn how more about organ donation, click here.