New York Baby Survives COVID, Has Liver Transplant—All Before Turning One

A "miracle" baby who was diagnosed with a rare liver disease contracted COVID-19 and survived—all before his first birthday.

Kasen Kyrie was born on January 14, 2020 and spent his first three days of life in a newborn intensive care unit suffering from a severe case of jaundice and breathing complications.

Kyrie was eventually discharged from hospital but his mother, Syracuse resident Mitayah Donerlson, soon realized that the newborn was continuing to experience complications. These included jaundice, dark urine and difficulty gaining weight, according to a GoFundMe page set up by Donerlson.

At two months old, medical staff diagnosed Kyrie with a rare liver disease called biliary atresia—a condition that occurs in infants in which the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder are blocked.

Symptoms of the disease, which affects around one in 20,000 newborns, usually appear around two to eight weeks after birth.

In March, medical staff decided to try a procedure that surgeons use to treat infants with biliary atresia. The "Kasai" procedure connects the liver to the small intestine, going around the abnormal ducts.

But the surgery was not successful in alleviating Kyrie's condition and it became clear that he would need a liver transplant.

Donerlson did some research and decided that the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh would be the best place for her son to undergo the liver transplant, KTXS reported.

Over the course of last spring and summer, Donerlson and her son made several trips to the hospital—around a five-and-a-half-hour drive away from Syracuse—as Kyrie's symptoms fluctuated.

"There was a time in September where they were really afraid that things were going for the worst because of the decline in his liver," Donerlson told KTXS.

Then in November of last year, her son came down with a fever, forcing Donerlson to take him to the emergency department at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.

There, medical staff told the mother that her son, who was just 10 months old at the time, had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Due to his already declining health, Donerlson feared the worst.

"Immediately I go into tears because I didn't think he was going to make it, I didn't think he was going to suppress the COVID and make it past that stage," Donerlson said. "I felt like I failed him as a parent, I felt like I didn't protect him. I felt like I didn't protect my household enough."

But despite his underlying health condition, Kyrie managed to beat COVID, to the surprise of his mother.

"He always seems to wow his doctors," Donerlson said. "He is a blessing and he is a miracle sent."

A few weeks later, the hospital in Pittsburgh notified Donerlson that a liver from a deceased donor was available, and Kyrie underwent the transplant on January 2, 2021.

The infant is now in recovery, although he may need to stay at the hospital for the next six months, meaning Donerlson and the rest of her family may have to temporarily relocate from Syracuse.

"The financial hardship of that is very hard," said Donerlson, "I have to juggle both homes and living arrangements here."

The mother set up a GoFundMe page in order to help with her son's medical expenses, the costs associated with the hospital trips and temporary housing in Pittsburgh.

Baby in a crib
Stock image showing a baby in a crib. A “miracle” baby who had been diagnosed with a rare liver disease contracted COVID before his first birthday and survived. iStock