OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) – It’s an overcast and dreary Thursday, but baby Gwen Rohrig and her family are celebrating as they lift their shovels into the muddy ground at a tree planting ceremony on the campus of Nebraska Medicine.
“She got a really special gift,” mother Mandy Rohrig said.
Gwen was born a few weeks pre-term on Sept. 9 at Methodist Women’s Hospital. On the 12th, she was diagnosed with the deadly entrovirus we heard so much about this fall. It was in her lungs and spinal fluid.
“It was all over her body,” Rohrig said. “She has a lot of supportive care, and without that supportive care over there, she probably wouldn’t have survived.”
Gwen was transferred from Methodist to the Nebraska Medical Center on Sept. 17. She was getting better. She had a healthy heart and lungs. One system wasn’t bouncing back fully: her liver.
“She was a tough girl, right? She could make it through this liver issue, this liver failure,” Rohrig said.
Nebraska Medicine’s Dr. David Mercer was on the team of doctors working Gwen’s case.
“Children do very, very well, for a long, long time, until suddenly they don’t. Babies and little children have tons of reserve, and they look completely normal. Until that reserve is exhausted, then things go south very quickly,” he said.
Gwen was put on the liver transplant list on Sept. 18. Six days later, on Sept. 24, a liver came for her. Given that Gwen was only two and a half weeks old, weighing about six pounds, this was very, rare to find a match. But the decision for transplant was still scary, with such a small, delicate patient.
Both Mercer and Rohrig recall the night they got the call, staying up at the hospital at two in the morning weighing the options.
“That child becomes like your child, when that’s happening,” Mercer said.
The Rohrigs went through with the transplant on Sept. 25. Mandy Rohrig’s original due date.
“This wasn’t the way we expected. It was a different way. We had a little angel baby give Gwen a liver,” she told KMTV.
A year later, Gwen is recovering well. Hospital visits have gone from blood draws three days a week to check ups three times a year. She tried a vanilla cupcake with her brother James for her birthday.
“She kind of messed with it in her fingers and then gagged once, she doesn’t like sweets,” mom says.
But through all off this, the family says they’ve been transformed. Mandy says they’ll never forget where they were at a year ago.
“That little liver and that little baby that’s somewhere in heaven right now and yeah, grateful for that. Our whole family is grateful for that,” she said.