The little girl, who suffered from a rare liver condition called biliary atresia, is thriving after receiving a liver transplant from her mom.

By Maressa Brown
March 12, 2020

At just nearly 3 years old, Julia Navarro might know what she wants to be when she grows up. The little girl was diagnosed with a rare liver condition just a few months after being born in August 2017. Now, according to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), where she received treatment, she might very well be preparing for her own career in medicine. CHOA explains that when Julia's mom recently called her a "doll," she replied, "Not a doll. A doctor. Doctor Julia."

It's no surprise the toddler is already inspired to care for others. After being born weighing 5 pounds and with jaundice, doctors at CHOA eventually diagnosed Julia with biliary atresia, a rare liver condition that occurs in infants, in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked. Bile can't flow into the intestine, so it builds up in the liver, causing damage which can lead to scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, and cirrhosis.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Around her first Christmas, Julia's belly began to swell with fluid, a sign that her liver was failing. At that point, she was too old to be a candidate for the Kasai procedure, which involves removing the blocked bile ducts and gallbladder and replacing them with a segment of the child's own small intestine. Instead, in January, she was put on a waiting list for a deceased donor liver. But a month later, she was suffering from internal bleeding and other complications, which indicated that her liver was shutting down.

By mid-January of 2018, she was placed on a waiting list for a new liver. In the meantime, Julia's mom, Analy, had joined a Facebook group for parents whose kids have biliary atresia, according to TODAY. That's where she met another mom who had donated part of her liver to her daughter. As doctors had suggested that Analy consider doing the same, she found it heartening to connect with a mom who had "gone through a similar journey."

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

On March 28, 2018 surgeons took a piece of Analy's liver and gave it to Julia. Julia's new liver will grow as she grows, and her mother's will regenerate, a spokesperson for CHOA notes. The biliary atresia will not return.

Still, there's much that the research community doesn't know about the condition—specifically, what causes it. For that reason, Analy and other biliary atresia mothers she met during Julia's treatment created the BA Hero Fund, which helps support biliary atresia research, in January 2019, according to FOX 5 Atlanta.

For Analy, the BA Hero Fund is a way of giving back. "Because you're helping babies, and you're helping other families," she told FOX. "You're saving lives."

Clearly inspired by her mom and her medical team, it's possible Julia will grow up to save lives someday as well.

To learn more about the BA Hero Fund, visit CHOA's Click for Kids site.

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