Girl, 4, needs liver transplant - FOX 13 News

FOX Medical Team

Girl, 4, needs liver transplant

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Most of the time, 4-year-old Kate Service can keep up with her classmates at St. Aidan's Preschool in Alpharetta. But Kate is different.  If she catches a virus or a cold, she can become critically ill overnight.  Doctors say the little girl needs a new liver because her health is failing quickly.

Watching Kate Service on the last day of class at St. Aidan's Preschool in Alpharetta, she's got big eyes, and big personality.

William and Lisa Service's youngest daughter has always been small for her age, which didn't worry them too much. But when she was about 1, tests began to show Kate's liver enzymes were off a bit.
"Her pediatrician was watching it, but health-wise, she was fine, eating plenty," said Lisa Service. "But in January, she got a stomach virus, fever and within a couple of days turned jaundiced."

And this was not your typical sick.

"She doesn't want to eat, she doesn't want to drink. She stops talking, stops being engaged and wanting to be part of anything," William Service said.

Kate bounced back, but in March, she got sick again, landing in the intensive care unit at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where doctors diagnosed her with acute liver failure.
"I think as a mom, I just want to fix it. Give it to me, I'll take it. I don't want her to have to do it," said Kate Service.

Kate recovered again, but she still has advanced liver disease and it's not curable, so she went back to Children's to talk about what's next.

"I think being here, she got a little scared, and a little nervous," said her mother.

William and Kate were nervous, too, because they knew what pediatric liver specialist Dr. Saul Karpen was going to say.

"The doctor kind of put it, like, ‘We're dodging bullets, right now.'  That if she was to never get sick again, she might be fine for the rest of her life.  But the problem is what if she gets sick again?  And most likely, we all get sick," said Lisa Service.

Karpen doesn't want to take the chance Kate's liver could shut down for good.  He and Kate's team at Children's are recommending the 5-year-old undergo a liver transplant.

"It's not experimental for over 20 years, and the outcome in kids is just extraordinary. It's something you are glad it exists. Imagine if we had this conversation 25 years ago," Karpen said.

"Part of me is just like, ‘If this is what it is, let's just get on with it, and figure out what the rest of her life is going to be like,'" said Kate Service.

But because Kate's health is stable, she may have to wait quite a while for a donor liver.

"There's a directive that comes from us that we all believe in: that's sickest first.  So it's not who you are, it's how sick you are," Karpen said.

The Services said they'll wait as long as they have to.

If Kate gets sick and goes into liver failure again, her transplant would be dramatically sped up.

DR. Karpen says this surgery sounds like a last resort, but they perform about 40 liver transplants a year at Children's.

Kate's parents say the most important thing they can do this summer is keep her well and try to stay patient.

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