Happy Birthday Madison! Baby thriving after December liver transplant

Lawton_In December of last year, 7News told you about a Jackson County infant whose family's only Christmas wish was for a new liver.  On December 12, that wish came true and little Madison Mitchell had her liver transplant surgery in St. Louis.  She's now back in Oklahoma and will celebrate her first birthday next week.

Doctors diagnosed Madison with a rare disease when she was only eight weeks old.  The disease caused her liver to fail and jaundice to turn her skin yellow.  Without a transplant, she could not have survived.

Madison's grandmother, Linda, spends much of her day taking care of her granddaughter, and says it's become a lot easier now.  "She wasn't able to communicate that she didn't feel good," she said.  "She'd never felt good, and never been that bubbly baby.  But, she is now most of the time."

Thanks to the emergency liver transplant, the little one is curious - whether playing with a musical table, crawling under tables to 'read' Billy Graham, or constantly trying to grab 7News' microphone while grandma was being interviewed.  The family says these are the sorts of things they prayed for after a doctor told them the terrifying news about her life expectancy.  "He said, 'A year.'  It's not a question we were ready to ask, 'How much longer do we still have?'" said Linda.  "But, after surgery our transplant coordinators and doctors said it was pretty close - that she was getting bad."

The family got the call at 1 AM on December 12 to be at the Altus airfield in two hours.  There was a liver donor - another infant.  "For a family to have a small baby, and be willing to do that - that's overwhelming to me," Linda said.  She says she can't express her gratitude enough to the donating family.  She says she also was amazed at how Altus - and, their hometown of Blair - supported them emotionally and financially...like one big family.  "Overwhelming," she said.  "To know that the community is there to back us and help us out - all the phone calls we got at the hospital."

Linda says the familiar voices were comforting to Madison's family, but the voice that's most comforting is Madison's own.  "We had to work to get a smile from Madison - we had to work to get her to laugh," said Linda.  "It's just spontaneous now.  You can get a smile out of her real easy, and you can just look at her - and a little tickle - and she's just cackling."

Not only was the laughter frequent during the 7News interview, it was contagious for Reporter Robert Richardson and Photographer Travis Stewart.  Madison has been back to the hospital twice since December, and must wear a special catheter at all times, but she is making progress.  "She'll always be on medication for life, but she stopped her steroids today, and that's a little milestone," Linda said.

Another milestone:  Madison is up and walking, just looking for something to hold onto.  Her next milestone happens on Friday, April 10th when she will turn one-year-old.  7News wishes her an early Happy Birthday!