Meet a Patient
When the sudden onset of acute liver failure required Samerah to undergo an emergency liver transplant, the confident teen approached the complex procedure and challenging recovery with strength and optimism.
In a matter of days, 18-year-old Samerah went from an active, vibrant high schooler to a patient whose condition was so severe, she was put at the top of the liver transplant list. “Her eyes and skin were getting darker yellow. Her speech got a little slower. That was on a Monday. By Friday, she was unresponsive,” says Samerah’s mom, Starla, a Children’s nurse.
Samerah had developed acute liver failure, according to Children’s hepatologist Rene Romero, MD. “Unfortunately, we don’t really know the cause,” he says. “Kids can quickly go from very healthy to in danger of dying. So with Samerah, we knew we had to move fast. Fortunately, we were able to identify a liver donor within 24 hours of putting her on the list.”
Before the six-hour surgery, Samerah was confident, as always. “When the surgeon told us to say our goodbyes, I busted out crying because I didn’t know if I’d see her later. But she was like, ‘Mom, don’t cry. I’m fine.’ And that made me cry even harder because she’s stronger than me.”
Samerah’s tenacity made all the difference during her recovery. “She bounced back super quick. She was only in the hospital for three weeks, which is unheard of,” says Starla.
Today, Samerah is finishing up her senior year, working and spending time with friends, all while managing the tasks needed to maintain her health. A liver transplant was not part of her plan, but she’s determined to use her experience for good.
“I’m thinking of being a motivational speaker, going to schools,” she says. “I want to tell kids that your world can stop at any minute, so don’t take anything for granted.”
When newborn Locklyn was diagnosed with Down syndrome, a heart defect and an underdeveloped nasal septum, her parents turned to Children’s for comprehensive care across multiple specialties. During her pregnancy, Lindy had a premonition her daughter would have special needs. She told her husband Kevin about the realistic dreams she’d been having. But it wasn’t until Locklyn was born that Lindy’s suspicion became more than a hunch.
Locklyn was born with Down syndrome. While the new parents weren’t entirely surprised, the diagnosis still took some time to accept.
“You have an expectation of what your child’s going to be like. I had to grieve that child. But I was in love with this little human being that actually was our reality,” Lindy says.
Lindy and Kevin were quickly bombarded by information about Down syndrome. And then came more difficult news.
“We got the curve ball that evening that she was diagnosed with a heart condition,” Kevin recalls.
Locklyn had an atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole between the heart’s two upper chambers, as well as pulmonary hypertension. Then doctors discovered that she had choanal atresia; her nasal septum had not fully developed.
Locklyn required several surgeries and procedures in a short amount of time, including two open-heart surgeries and a surgery to repair her nasal septum. But through it all, she’s been a ray of light. She’s also proven to be quite determined.
“Somehow she learned to walk while she was hooked up to oxygen and a feeding tube,” says Lindy. “I have no idea how she did it.”
“Locklyn is a miracle child considering how much she’s been through,” adds pediatric otolaryngologist April Landry, MD.
Ariella-Faith had been receiving care at another hospital for a month but was not getting any better. Her mother, Gloria, knew she had to take drastic action. And since Ariella-Faith’s father had died while the toddler was battling her mysterious illness, it was just Gloria and 21-month-old Ariella-Faith on the journey to Atlanta, Ga., in November 2014.
“Upon arriving in Atlanta, they headed straight to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta,” said Rene Romero Jr., MD, Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program at Children’s. “She was one of the most chronically ill appearing children I’ve ever seen in my career.”
Ariella-Faith’s diagnosis included liver failure, hyperbilirubinemia, Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), failure to thrive, bleeding gums and more. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy treatments and had many stays in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Children’s. She also underwent a liver transplant at Children’s in April 2017.
“I remember a time in the ICU when there was a complication. It was like all the doctors and nurses were in our room. They did what they know how to do best and she became stable,” said Gloria. “Someone who knew her when she was very sick saw me one day and asked, ‘How is Ariella?’ I said, ‘There she is over there.’ I could see shock on her face, then she whispered in my ear, ‘Gloria, I must confess, I thought she wouldn’t make it.’ That is how bad she was.”
It’s not lost on Gloria what a miracle it is that her daughter is alive. It’s also not lost on 9-year-old Ariella-Faith, who wants to become a doctor when she grows up she can give back.
“She’s been a warrior, you know,” said Gloria. “With what’s she’s been through, I’m so happy she’s here alive today. She’s all I’ve got. I thank God for Children’s and the doctors, nurses and the whole care team at every stage of her progress.”
Dr. Romero said the key to Ariella-Faith’s successful journey is the collaboration and coordination of care across numerous service lines at Children’s, and that the team never gave up Hope that they would help heal the young girl.
“It was a very long journey to get her well, but we never gave up hope, we just kept going through the stages and taking it day by day,” said Dr. Romero.
Now, Ariella-Faith visits Children’s Egleston Hospital every week to check in on how her liver is doing and her overall well-being.
Celebrating remission, Lex embodies strong will
Lex Stolle had just started fifth grade when he started experiencing symptoms like loss of appetite, fatigue and body aches.
After exams and tests at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Lex was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia in September 2019 at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s. He underwent chemotherapy treatments once a week and in October 2019, Lex celebrated going into remission. After going into remission, Lex continued weekly treatments at Children’s until moving into monthly maintenance chemo treatments in July 2020.
After the toll that treatment took on his body, Lex returned to the activities he loves, such as attending Atlanta United games with friends, acting, and helping the environment.
Lex is now 13 years old and has started the 8th grade. He rang the bell this January to complete his treatment and now has routine monthly checkups. Lex is also an Honorary Construction Manager for Children’s at Arthur M. Blank Hospital.
Lex embodies the Will that patients at Children’s use every day to overcome difficult diagnoses or injuries.