Devine’s Dr. Keri James was honored for her gift of life this past Friday, December 17, 2021 during a “Reveal Celebration” at University Hospital in San Antonio, where just four months ago, she donated part of her liver (2/8th) to a very sick 7 month old baby girl.
The two families finally got to meet, hear about each other, visit, and meet the huge transplant team at University Health Transplant Institute. They were lined up in the hallway of University Hospital with hospital staff cheering the families all the way to the conference room where the “Reveal” was hosted.
James and her husband CJ, and sons Eli and Marshall, walked with her and immediately fell in love with baby Marley, holding, talking to and adoring her.
Marley and her mother, Marlene Trinidad seemed just as happy and pleased to meet Keri and her family.
Inside the conference room it was filled with members of the transplant team from all the areas– from the admitting staff to the surgeons and administrators.
Ksat12 and The Devine News were invited to attend and help spread awareness of this amazing living donor program, it’s success and the reveal of donor Keri James and the recepient, 10 month old baby Marley Trinidad. Ksat 12 plans to air the story on the 10 p.m. news on December 23, according to James.
Dr Naveer A Mittal, MD, Pediatric Gastroenterologist welcomed everyone to the “Reveal” and explained how urgent it was that baby Marley got a liver transplant.
“I would like to introduce my team to the group here. I took care of her (baby Marley) from the moment she arrived to the point of the transplant. Of course the surgeons did their wonderful surgery, and thank you. Nothing is possible unless we have donors, healers like you, really, thank you, thank you Keri.
“Marley came to us in very desperate situation. As you can probably see in some of the pictures here (scrolling on screens) she was very skinny, very jaundiced, her liver was very sick. Due to a condition, some are born with the drainage ducts from the liver not draining the bile, so the liver gets very damaged. That’s actually the number one reason for liver transplantation in children. She came with that, plus a lot of other things, malnourished , unable to feed well, very distended belly, and a lot of social issues our social worker couldn’t help with. Of course, the solution was a liver transplant in a timely fashion. Desperately she was struggling a lot and needed a liver transplant. Thanks once again, because you really gave her new life. Thank you!”, said Dr. Mittal.
Another Team member introduced the donor… “I would like to introduce to you Mrs. Keri James, she came to us before, to help another baby. She dropped everything as soon as she heard the story about a child in need. That child thank God was saved and had surgery. Mrs. James said she wanted to stay available for whoever needed it. We called her a few times on other babies and she was ready. Ready to go, ready to do whatever!”
Jennifer Milton, Chief Administrator of the University Health Transplant Institute talked next.
“We have never had a chance to be a part of such a special moment in watching you all meet each other. Keri just like your journey began you shared by reading a newspaper article, I hope that you know by your sharing this story, your being a part of this will no doubt save so many other children just like Marley.
“And Marley for sure has a really cool Aunt, Uncle and some pretty rocking cousins it looks like for the rest of her life. And you all have inherited quite a fashionista, what a doll she is.
“I am going to throw a few numbers at your all. This is our 51st Anniversary of performing transplants at University Hospital. That’s a milestone not many centers have hit in the United States. This year just last week we did our 51st living liver donation. We are the 2nd largest program in the US. We are #1for patients doing well and surviving after their transplants. All of the talent you heard Marley’s mom talk about, a dietician/ nutritionist who is deeply dedicated to making all of these kids well enough to get a transplant, social worker who is so passionate, a living liver donor team that has trained other programs all over the country, senior hospital leadership who believes in us, unrelenting surgeons, a donor champion program, a liver transplant team, a pharmacy team. It takes for sure an entire village.
“But despite 51 years of experience, such experience in doing living liver transplants, we can’t do it if someone won’t say yes, and someone doesn’t come forward because they were so moved. We know from many of our living liver donors one of the hardest parts of saying yes is their families saying yes with them.
“Obviously what an incredibly, loving, wonderful example of humanity you are Keri. I know by looking at your family they were so worried about you. So, thank you all as a family for saving this gorgeous little girl, her entire family, the child on the waiting list who got a liver transplant because Marley wasn’t on the waiting list any longer and in the nick of time having her life saved. We can’t thank you enough for raising awareness certainly by sharing your story, others will be moved to come forward. Words aren’t enough to say all the wonderful things and how we feel, but on behalf of this entire hospital, this amazing team, thank you. Now you get to play with the baby,” said Milton.
Keri read a letter titled “My Journey “ and Marlene read her letter explaining her experience, read by an interpreter.
Keri James, “ My Journey”
My journey to becoming a living liver donor began in February 2021 when I noticed an article in our local paper about a baby girl in need of a liver transplant. As I was the same blood type, I began to research what was involved in donating. While the risk to the donor was limited, I began to pray about donating. My husband and I discussed extensively the possibility of me donating. Finally, we decided that if this was our child, we would want someone to take the steps to donate.
I contacted the University Health Transplant Institute and began making appointments for my evaluation. The experience was life-changing. Each result came back great. Everyone that worked with me was such a blessing in my life. What an amazing group of individuals. As the time came for the baby to need her transplant, I was still a good match. At this time, my husband and I sat down with our two sons to discuss the possibility of me donating. Our sons, Eli and Marshall, were 100% behind the donation.
A couple of days before that original baby was scheduled for surgery, I was contacted that I would not be her donor. God is so good… her aunt was a perfect match. This led to me being asked if I would stay on the transplant donor list for a year. I immediately said “yes.”
In mid-August, I was contacted again to see if I would be interested in donating to another baby. It did not take but a few minutes for my husband and I to say “yes” once again. This time, we had a little over a week to prepare our family for this adventure. On August 24, 2021 (and the second day of school for our children), I entered University Hospital for an experience that has forever changed my life; physically, mentally, and spiritually. I am so honored and blessed that God chose my family and I to be a part of such an incredible experience. We continue to pray daily for the recipient and her family.
Everyone that was involved from my initial contact with Lizetth to the surgeons on transplant day (and beyond) and everyone in between was so caring and compassionate. I knew we had made the right decision. Words cannot express how thankful I am to God for all these special people that work day in and day out to save the lives of our future.
Marlene Trinidad (mother of the organ recipient)
“I would like to share the process of my daughter Marley, she was born with high bilirubin and they left her another day in the hospital, she left and her pediatrician told me that everything looked very good with her as the weeks went by, Marley looked different in skin color and in her abdomen, when I decided to take her to the doctor they told me that they could not see very well what the problem was but they saw that something was not right with her liver because it looked larger than normal for the age that Marley was. On the same day, I took her to the emergency room and as the hours went by they told me that they had to transfer her to Corpus Christi to be able to perform a biopsy, Marley at only three months old had her first surgery, after arriving at the hospital in Corpus Christi the next day they would perform a biopsy, after my daughter left the operating room the surgeon came to me to tell me that everything went well with my daughter but that he could see the problem. He mentioned that my daughter was born without bile ducts and because of that my daughter’s liver was not working properly. She said there were probably one or two solutions but both were surgery but since my daughter’s liver was very broken, very damaged like a person with cirrhosis, she told me that the the only solution to save her life was a liver transplant. After two days we were transferred to San Antonio, here the biggest battle began as time passed, Marley did not reach the right weight to undergo the transplant, after four months of waiting They raised Marley to the list for a liver donor from a deceased or living donor. After a few days Marley’s health became complicated, then miraculously on August 13 I received the most anticipated call. They told me that there was a donor for Marley and the date would be August 24, one day before the transplant. Marley’s health became complicated again and they had to take her to intensive care. Marley went to the operating room on August 24 at 7:30 a.m.
It was a very long wait. I felt scared and desperate when I didn’t see her but everything went perfect. Marley’s recovery was fast and everything was progressing very well. It has been three months since Marley received her new liver and since the first moment she was a totally different baby, already smiling and playing more, more naughty and she is growing correctly, receiving all her nutrients correctly. I feel very happy and I am very grateful to the whole transplant team and to the donor who thanks to her, allowed my daughter to lead a normal life.
Thank You is not Enough…
by Keri James
Matthew 25:40 For “whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me,” says the Lord Jesus. Let us pray, reflect and as ourselves: Have I seen the Lord in my brothers and sisters?
Words cannot express how thankful I am that God chose my family and me for this very special experience. How amazing God is that He created us so that we may be used as vessels in this way. Meeting Marlee and her mother for the first time was so surreal. May God continue to heal and bless them!! This was a perfect experience to begin our Christmas vacation!!!
There are so many people to thank that helped me throughout this journey. I know I cannot name them all. My husband and sons are the most incredible people I know! Thank you for taking this journey with me, and for all you did and continue to do for me!! To Kevin for being willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help us out. To Todd for driving our children, and to our church family especially Debbie and the Children’s department for the wonderful gift cards and prayers. To Terrie for the delicious meal on the day I returned from the hospital and the constant prayers and checking in on me since I began this journey in February!! To Debi who has always been so supportive of me. To KK who checked in on me every day I was in the hospital and is educating everyone about living liver donation. To Sylvia and Linda who took over my duties at work, and my Wayland Baptist University family who prayed daily for me and supported me. To Sharie for taking care of our children while still checking in on me, and feeding my family while I was in the hospital. The books and “heart” pillow really made the days during recovery go by quickly! To Charles, Kaelyn, and Caleb for chauffeuring me from the hospital and making me feel so special! Thank you to the faculty and staff at Devine ISD who were so understanding and supportive throughout this entire process – with a special thank you to those who let us park near the concession stand so that I could watch my children while they participated in band and football. There are so many more family and friends that prayed for me and checked in on our family. Words are not enough!! Devine is truly a family community, and this experience was just another example of how very special it is to live here.
Keri, CJ, Eli and Marshall James
University Health System
What Is a Living Donor Liver Transplant?
When a child receives a portion of a living, healthy adult’s liver, it’s called a living-donor transplant. The donor freely gives this special gift to benefit your child.
Living liver donation is possible because the human liver has the unique ability to grow back to its original size and function. Your child’s transplanted partial liver will grow into a normal-sized liver as he or she develops.
LIVING DONOR NEED
Receiving a living donation is the quickest way for a University Health patient to get a kidney or liver transplantation. That’s because there are not enough deceased donors to match the number of people on the transplant waiting lists. And every year, transplant waiting lists get longer.
How to Become a Living Donor
Deciding to become a living donor is a personal decision. Count on the transplant team at University Health to answer your questions, address your concerns and support your decision.
Learn if you’re eligible to be a donor and how to take the step to become a living kidney donor or living liver donor at University Health Transplant Center.
Benefits of Living Organ Donation
Giving a second chance at life to another person is the most significant benefit of making a living donation. Discover the other advantages for you and the recipient.
Since 1992, our surgeons and physicians have established a vigorous track record of successful liver transplant surgeries. With over 1,600 liver transplants performed, children and adults receive expert care from one the largest liver programs in Texas.
A liver transplant is recommended for individuals with any condition resulting in irreversible, chronic, acute or progressive liver disease with a reduced life expectancy and no medical or surgical alternatives to transplantation. Our nationally recognized team is well equipped to provide patients and their families customized treatment plans from liver disease management to specialized surgical services from infancy to adulthood.
Each patient benefits from our strong history of research, innovation and surgical excellence along with a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, dietitians and other health care professionals working around the clock to provide high-quality care before, during and after transplant. Our program is also one of only two centers in Texas offering Live Liver Donation as an option for patients.. This allows shorter wait times and improved quality of life before a patient’s liver disease worsens.
In 1999, University Health Transplant Institute surgeons performed South Texas’ first live liver donor transplant. Since then, we have remained at the helm of live liver donation and one of only two programs offering this service in the state.
With over 14,000 patients in the country awaiting a liver transplant, living liver donation has become a lifesaving opportunity for patients. Live liver donation offers individuals the option of transplant before their liver disease worsens. A liver section from a live donor provides a person on the wait list shorter wait times and a better quality of life. A live liver donation is possible because of the liver’s unique ability to enlarge to a normal size in both recipient and donor within a matter of weeks. The act of organ donation is extraordinary and our dedicated living donor team will guide potential donors every step of the way.
Living liver donors must be:
In good health and between the ages 21 and 55
Able to understand the risks and possible complications of liver donation
Willing to do all testing required
In a stable life situation with family or social support
Self-insured even though the evaluation and surgery are covered by the recipient’s insurance
If interested in becoming a living liver donor, please first complete the living donor screening form.
See universityhealthsystem. com for details on the living donor program and how to become one if you are interested .
By Kathleen Calame