Milford boy honored for courage facing liver disease

Posted May 15, 2013, at 11:36 a.m.
Last modified May 15, 2013, at 1:09 p.m.

MILFORD, Maine — An 8-year-old Milford boy has been recognized by the American Liver Foundation for his courage in the face of liver disease.

When Andy Koch was just two months old, he appeared noticeably jaundiced to his parents, Vanessa and Charlie Koch. After many medical tests, Andy was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts of the liver fail to develop normally, eventually leading to liver failure.

At three months old, doctors at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland performed two “Kasai procedures” in an attempt to help Andy. The procedure surgically bypasses the bile ducts and prevents liver damage from occurring. However, by late October, Andy developed a serious infection and was transferred to Boston. After it became clear he wouldn’t survive without a liver transplant, he was listed for a transplant in early November 2004.

The Koch family returned home to wait. After two false alarms — one potential liver turned out not to be a match, and Andy was listed as a standby for the other — Vanessa was ready to serve as her son’s living donor and donate half of her liver.

The liver is the only internal organ that can regenerate itself.

However, at six months old, a yellow and bloated Andy was flown to Boston after a donor was found. Andy received his transplant on Jan. 12, 2005, and was back home in less than two weeks.

Today, Andy is an active 8-year-old. The Koch family, including Andy’s older brother Sam, is grateful for the few restrictions and limitations that he lives with and is careful about keeping him healthy.

The American Liver Foundation has recognized Andy as a “LIVEr champion,” a courageous and inspiring individual who shares their story in order to highlight the foundation’s work to raise awareness and support research related to liver disease.

Nationally, one in 10 Americans is affected by liver disease. Seventy percent of those living with liver disease are unaware of their illness.

The American Liver Foundation’s Liver Life Walk in Maine will be held in Portland, starting at Payson Park Sunday, June 2. Registration and check-in begins at 9 .m., with the program starting at 10 a.m. followed by the walk at 10:30 a.m.