On Nov. 9, Knight Elementary School fifth-grader Eva McCoy came down with what appeared to be the flu. Less than a week later, doctors would tell her family that, without an immediate liver transplant, she would die.
She had suffered a very rare form of acute liver failure — one that affects only four to five children a year in the United States. Her liver simply stopped working — as doctors would later explain to her parents — and her body would no longer support it.
Doctors don’t know what causes it. The only “cure,” the only hope, is a new, healthy liver, as fast as possible.
Normally, liver transplants are not something that can be done immediately. But Eva was put on the list under “1A” status — meaning she would be the first in the country to receive a liver as soon as one became available.
Miraculously, one did. And it took only a few hours (the original estimate had been two to seven days). Her mother, Rauline McCoy, said that doctors told her the liver was “not perfect,” but their recommendation was to accept it anyway.
By then, her daughter had been Life Flighted to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where a team of several dozen medical professional were working round the clock to help keep Eva’s organs functioning and save her life.
“She just began shutting down, more and more and more,” Rauline said. “All of her systems were at risk: kidney, heart, lungs, brain. By Friday morning [Nov. 15], they had her on a ventilator.”
Eva went under the knife the following morning, Nov. 16. The surgery was successful in removing her failed organ and replacing it with the donor’s liver. But she was far from out of the woods yet, and her family’s harrowing ordeal was far from over.
For several days after the surgery, Eva was in a medically induced coma. Her brain was still swelling, and this was of great concern to her medical team.
We were able to speak with Rauline yesterday, Friday the 22nd, from a lobby at the children’s hospital. She said that Eva is awake now, but in a state of what her doctors call “ICU delirium.”
“She’s just kind of in an out, very loopy, not sure where she is,” Rauline said. “She’s very scared. She appears to have signs of trauma, and it will take her some time to adjust to the story, because of how fast it is.”
It’s been “a whirlwind,” Rauline said, for Eva and her family, and there is a lot to adjust to. The family will have to remain in Seattle for Eva’s rehabilitation for at least the next six weeks, and perhaps as long as three months.
This will mean time off work, and increased travel and living expenses. Rauline said she will have to get dual residency in Seattle.
“This is just the beginning of a very long road for us,” she said.
For the rest of her life, Eva will be on immunosuppressive drugs and have to be carefully monitored to make sure her body doesn’t reject the transplanted liver. Because of the medications suppressing her immune system, she’ll also be much more susceptible to bugs and other contagious illnesses.
She described her daughter as very outdoorsy and an “extreme extrovert.”
“Her favorite all-time activity is being with people,” she said. She laughed a bit as she added, “She’s spunky, she’s sassy. She’s large and in charge.”
Social media has been awash with messages of support and concern for Eva, many from the parents of Eva’s many friends at school. A GoFundMe page set up by a family friend last week has already raised more than $20,000 to assist the family with the more than $40,000 in expenses they have incurred that are not covered by insurance (Rauline said they are also in the process of filing appeals with their insurance provider).
“We have had so much support from the community of Canby. I can feel Canby with us,” she said. “All of the well wishes we have gotten…really helps to strengthen us, quite honestly. I know people don’t feel like they’re doing a lot, but it is a lot.”
To support Eva and her family financially in this difficult time, please visit her GoFundMe page here. And to receive updates from her family about Eva’s condition and journey to recovery, visit her page on CaringBridge.
Photos courtesy Rauline McCoy.
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