Sabinal Elementary fifth-grader Jenna Milam serves as a classroom representative and participates in University Interscholastic League, but none of that would be possible if not for the liver transplant she received at two years of age.
Jenna was born Sept. 16, 2006, to Elizabeth and John Milam of Sabinal. At one month she underwent heart surgery. At two months, and after a liver biopsy, Jenna was diagnosed with Alagille syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the liver, heart and other organs.
One of the major features of Alagille syndrome is liver damage caused by abnormalities in the bile ducts. These ducts carry bile, which helps to digest fats, from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine.
Such was the case with Jenna, who upon receiving a diagnosis was placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing. Her parents received word of a match just after midnight on April 15, 2008.
They were immediately put on a Kangaroo Club Jet, a non-profit flight, which flew them from Hondo to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston at 8 a.m. Jenna went into surgery an hour later.
“She is a miracle for the simple reason that her liver was so bad when she first got her transplant… they were sure she would have to have another liver transplant, but her body has accepted this one,” Elizabeth Milam said.
“To have this surgery, it changed my life,” Jenna said.
As the 10-year anniversary of Jenna’s transplant approaches, Elizabeth said they have requested to meet the donor’s family.
“We wanted to make sure this was a successful liver transplant so we decided if we made it to 10 years we would set up a date to meet the family,” Elizabeth Milam said.
The Milam family wanted to share their story to help educate others about the importance of organ donation as April is Donor Awareness Month.
“To give the gift of life, and to receive it, I can’t put into words what it has meant to me and my family,” Elizabeth Milam said. “Life without her would be so different and people don’t realize it is as simple as saying ‘yes’, I will be an organ donor.”
To add your name to the list of donors, visit www.unos.org.