‘Miracle Baby’ Survives Both COVID-19 and Liver Transplant Before His First Birthday

January 22, 2021 Updated: January 22, 2021

An infant who survived both COVID-19 and a liver transplant and celebrated his first birthday in hospital is being hailed a “miracle baby” by his proud mom.

Baby Kasen’s mom, Mitayah Donerlson, took to social media to praise her little warrior son on his first birthday, on Jan. 14, surrounded by balloons and dressed in a cute bow-tie and birthday crown.

“Words can’t explain your Strength, Courage, and Determination. I am HONORED to be your Mother,” she wrote, adding that her son is the “instructor” to the life lessons that she could only learn from him.

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Baby Kasen celebrating his first birthday on Jan. 14 after undergoing a life-saving liver transplant surgery on Jan. 2, 2021. (Courtesy of Mitayah Donerlson)

Born in Syracuse, New York, Kasen weighed 8 pounds (approx. 4 kg) at birth, but he was transferred to the NICU due to jaundice and some breathing difficulties.

Despite doctors’ assertions that his health would improve, Kasen only got worse.

At the age of 2 months, he was diagnosed with biliary atresia—a severe liver condition that causes scarring and blockage of the bile ducts. The rare disease necessitated emergency surgery; however, the operation was unsuccessful.

Kasen had a feeding tube fitted and was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a five-hour drive from the family home.

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Mitayah Donerlson with her baby son, Kasen. (Courtesy of Mitayah Donerlson)

“We had endless hospital visits … He would have fevers that wouldn’t come down,” Donerlson told Good Morning America (GMA).

Complications meant some visits would last up to 10 days, an emotional rollercoaster that took its toll on the entire family.

In November 2020, a further complication struck. Donerlson, her partner, Kasen, and a 5-year-old niece in their care all contracted COVID-19.

The exhausted mom, who also has a 4-year-old son, Cameron, described Kasen’s feverish body as “like touching a stove,” fearing he wouldn’t pull through, reported GMA.

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(Courtesy of Mitayah Donerlson)

Yet the whole family, including Kasen, recovered, and in mid-December 2020, Donerlson received a call that Kasen’s new liver was ready.

“All I could do was cry,” Donerlson said. “I always knew he was going to get a transplant, that was my faith, but to finally get that call … to have that relief from the burden on my shoulders dropped, it felt so good.”

Kasen had surgery on Jan. 2, weighing just 18 pounds (approx. 8 kg). Despite his frailty, Kasen’s health was positively transformed after receiving the left portion of a liver from a young adult who passed away, reported GMA.

“His eyes have always been greenish and yellowish, his entire life, and he woke up from surgery with clear eyes,” Donerlson said. “I was overjoyed.”

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(Courtesy of Mitayah Donerlson)

While looking back on the journey as “very, very stressful,” the proud mom described Kasen’s recovery thus far as “so sweet and so smooth that I can’t ask for anything more.”

Donerlson thanked all volunteers, living and dead, who come forward to donate their vital life-saving organs.

“They made a way for Kasen, a way for my baby, to have a second chance at life, a life that he was not promised to see,” she said.

Donerlson’s family is renting an apartment in the Pittsburgh area to be close to Kasen throughout his months-long inpatient recovery, with help from a GoFundMe page.

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(Courtesy of Mitayah Donerlson)

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