Mother donates part of her liver to her toddler

Back at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for a checkup, Adeline Rollins seems like she's making up for lost time.

"Oh, her energy level is out of this world," her mother Margaret Rollins says.

"I didn't realize until after her transplant how miserable that baby must've been, and she could still smile."

Born with biliary atresia, Adeline, an 18-month-old from Columbus, Mississippi, was in liver failure.

Her belly swelling with fluid, she was struggling to eat and drink, sleeping 20 hours a day.

"That was the worst experience ever," Margaret Rollins says. "You're helpless; you're sitting there watching your baby die."

After a surgery at 6 weeks didn't help, John Michael and Margaret Rollins began to realize a liver transplant was Adeline's only option. But could she hold on?

"That's the question: how much time do we have," John Michael says. "And you don't know."

Adeline was sick but fairly stable.

Yet, the bottom could drop out at any time.

"And there are so many babies waiting on lifesaving organs, and lot of them don't get the call, at all," her moths says. "And, they die."

In December, Adeline was wait-listed for a deceased donor liver, but something odd was happening at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the busiest pediatric liver transplant programs in the U.S.

"Atlanta has always gotten organs very quickly for children, and all of a sudden they weren't," says Margaret Rollins.

With more than 20 children waiting for a liver transplant, some sicker than Adeline, the Surgical Director of the Liver Transplant Program, Dr. Joseph Magliocca and the Children's transplant team decided Adeline's best option was for her mother to give her a piece of her liver.

It would be the first living donor transplant here in nearly 4 years because they'd had enough organs, and living donor liver transplants come with risks.

"The beautiful part of the living donor is it's a perfectly healthy liver from a perfectly healthy donor," says Dr. Magliocca.

And livers grow back.

"That allows us to take a piece from mom and have her liver regenerate, and she's got more than enough to be healthy, and we can give a piece to the child and that will grow, and grow with the child for life," Magliocca explains.

Early February 20, 2018, Margaret said goodbye to Adeline.

"And I was able to lay my hand on her head and give her a kiss," she remembers.

Then, she walked across the street to Emory University Hospital for her surgery,

"That was the reason why I was here, on this planet, was to save her," Rollins says. "For some reason. I don't know why."

Someday, when she's ready, Margaret and John Michael will tell Adeline her story.

"A miracle is the smallest term I could use to describe it because it's much bigger than that," Margaret Rollins says. "It's something I never thought I would experience in my entire life because my daughter was not supposed to live. And now she's here and she's thriving because of a small sacrifice that I made."

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