It is a difficult surgery even for an adult to endure, but a Tennessee family just found out their 7-month-old will have to undergo a liver transplant or he'll die.
To make matters worse, the Nashville hospital where they have been going has recently lost its only surgeon qualified to perform such a rare surgery.
With such a big laugh, you would never know Levi Smith is suffering from a life-threatening disease.
"It's definitely tough. You don't know what to think. You don't know if he's gonna make it. It's scary," father Shaun Smith said.
Levi was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare liver condition that only affects one in 18,000 infants, when he was just 2 months old.
Then at a check-up earlier this month, doctors at Vanderbilt Medical Center told Levi's parents more bad news.
"If for some reason he couldn't get a transplant, his liver would fail and he would not make it," mother Andrea Smith said.
Vanderbilt has a pediatric liver program, but right now it's on hold as they search for a new head surgeon.
Now, Levi will have to go to Cincinnati for the transplant surgery, which will be a risky procedure because of Levi's young age and tiny blood vessels.
But before the transplant can even happen, the family has to find an organ donor.
"It could take a day to a year," Shaun Smith said.
A child-sized liver would be the best option for Levi. He only weighs 13 1/2 pounds, but a Vanderbilt surgeon said it's very unlikely one will come available. More than likely, Levi will receive an adult liver that would need to be sectioned or split so it fits his tiny body.
Levi's surgery could cost anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000. And the family will have to relocate to Cincinnati for three months as Levi recovers.
The only way the family can pay for it is through fundraising, so they've started a nonprofit called Team Levi. Thus far, they've only raised a few hundred dollars.
"He's definitely too young. I don't think any child should have to go through stuff like that, but if all goes well with surgery the prospects are great," Shaun Smith said.
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