SAUQUOIT, NY-- The family of a local 2-year-old, who went through a liver transplant, is giving back to other children going through the same procedure.
Gavin Jerzak likes to play with his sister Grace, cuddle with his mom and learn about animals. But a year ago he was fighting to stay alive, because of a rare liver condition he was diagnosed with called biliary atresia.
"He had a feeding tube because his body couldn't absorb the nutrients," said Dana Jerzak, Gavin's mother. "He had broken bones, he broke his wrist when he tried to crawl, broke his femur when he tried to walk. "It was crazy everyday was medicines two, three times a day, a bottle every three hours until transplant."
With some help from Facebook Dana Jerzak eventually found someone who could be a match.
"I was friends with the woman who lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana through [a liver transplant Facebook group] and she had messaged me," she said. "She had said there's a woman a local woman in Baton Rouge who's grandson just passed away and she went onto Facebook.
The woman alerted Dana that the grandmother of the child who had died had posted a message "asking if there were any babies who needed organs," she said. "So she knew that we are waiting for 13 months, so she tagged our name in the post and the grandmother actually contacted me."
The two exchanged messages and the grandmother asked where Gavin was being treated.
"They basically put Gavin's name on the liver and shipped it to Boston."
Soon after Jerzak family received a call during winter storm Stella, that a liver was ready for Gavin. A trip that usually takes the family 4 hours to drive, took 6 in a half.
The family thought it was a coincidence that Gavin received a liver transplant soon after those Facebook messages. But in June they found out it was the same family. The 17-month-old donor had died by drowning, his name was Gabriel. The Jerzak's have a picture of Gabriel on their mantel and they talk about him to their two children.
"He's a part of the family," she said. "I feel like I have three kids, as crazy as that sounds it's weird because I've never been through anything like this before. It feels like I'm taking care of three kids I feel like I have to continue on for her son."
The family is approaching the one year anniversary of Gavin's transplant, which is March 16.
"He has no real liver issues," she said. "He had a biopsy when he was just two months out just to make sure that everything was okay, because his numbers were fluctuating but other than that just the common cold. He's been doing fantastic."
After Gavin received his transplant the hospital gave him a special blanket for organ recipients. The gift inspired the family to collect blankets to provide some sense of comfort to other patients going through similar procedures.
"He still loves his blanket to this day and so we're just trying to get back trying to make another child smile," she said. "We just want to give a little bit of comfort to another child that was a need."
The family is collecting new blankets to donate to the transplant unit at Boston Children's Hospital until Friday, April 20, at the following locations:
New Hartford Public Library, on 2 Library Lane, New Hartford
Monday and Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thursday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, from 1 to 5 p.m.
The Dunham Public Library on 76 Main St. in Whitesboro
Monday-Wednesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Reilly's Dairy on 9553 Pinnacle Road in Sauquoit
Monday-Friday, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If you have any question contact Dana by calling 315-525-4796
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