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Inola family has hope after split-liver transplant

Troy Yoder, a 3-year-old boy from Inola, was close to dying until he received a split-liver transplant that doctors say saved his life. He is recovering at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 17, 2013

Troy Yoder powers through the hospital hallway on his orange Harley-Davidson plastic trike, unaware that he's a miracle boy.

The only thing Troy probably notices is that he feels better.

But a few weeks ago, doctors worried Troy wouldn't make it until his third birthday.

Instead, he woke up the morning of his birthday with balloons decorating his hospital room and a new liver supplying his body with much-needed nutrients.

“He just had a couple of days left, maybe just a day or so,” said Troy's mother, Kristina Yoder. “He got the transplant — we just didn't know if he was going to get it in time.”

After battling illness for most of his short life, Troy received a split-liver transplant in January that doctors say should relieve symptoms of his liver disease.

The Inola boy suffers from alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, the most common genetic cause of liver disease in children and the most common genetic disease for which a liver transplant is done, according to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

There is no cure for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, according to the children's hospital. If liver disease develops, a liver transplant is currently the only option available for survival, according to the hospital.

Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a type of protein made in the liver that works to protect the lungs and liver. People with a lack of this protein can develop liver disease, like Troy did, or also develop lung disease.

It's the same genetic disorder that can cause people to develop chronic lung disease, or COPD. People who suffer from this disorder might develop chronic bronchitis or emphysema between ages 20 and 50, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Troy has suffered with health problems for most of his life.

Troy was born Jan. 8, 2010. When he was 2 months old, his skin was yellow from jaundice, which causes a person's skin and eyes to turn yellow and can be the result of liver disease.

Troy's parents, Kristina and Norman Yoder, took him to see a doctor, and several tests and doctor's visits later, Troy was diagnosed with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. He was 4 months old.

Troy is among about 10 percent of children with the alpha-1 deficiency who develop significant liver disease, according to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

In December, Troy's health was quickly deteriorating.

He wasn't thinking clearly, and his skin was again yellow from jaundice. About Christmas, he was transferred from an intensive care unit in a Tulsa hospital to Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

When Troy arrived in Oklahoma City in December, he had to be placed on a breathing machine. Because of all the fluid building up in his body, his stomach looked like it had a bowling ball inside of it.

His spleen was larger than it should be, and he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, in which the liver can no longer repair itself. He also was suffering from bacterial peritonitis, in which the inner wall of the abdomen becomes inflamed, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In short, he was dying.

“If Troy had not had this transplant, he probably would not have been able to celebrate his third birthday,” said Dr. Vivek Kohli, director of hepatobiliary and liver transplant surgery at Integris Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute. “It was very serious ... if he had not received his transplant, we would not be seeing him here with us today.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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