Liver donor steps forward for ailing Lockport baby

Contributed photo Summer Laforme (left) and Michele Fleeger (left) are shown here during a March benefit for the Laforme family. Fleeger, of Pennsylvania, has agreed to serve as a liver donor for baby Summer who suffers from a condition called Bilary Artesia. Fleeger encouraged those who can to sign up as donors at registerme.org.   

The benefit was scheduled as a way to raise funds and to show support for Summer Laforme and her family.

Family and friends of the 8-month-old girl from Lockport received something far better during the March 30 event. They found out that a woman from Pennsylvania had stepped forward as a possible donor for Summer who is in need of a liver transplant. 

"Everyone was hooting and hollering and crying probably," recalled Summer's mother, Maria Laforme. 

Baby Summer has been on the liver transplant list since November. In March, her mother was contacted by Michele Fleeger, a Pennsylvania woman who wanted to be a donor.

On Wednesday, Fleeger underwent pre-operation testing in Pittsburgh where doctors confirmed that her liver was the right size for Summer. As a result, Summer is now scheduled to have an operation in Pittsburgh on April 25. 

Her mom admits to being "still a little bit shocked" by the development, adding that she "really won't believe it until she is wheeled right into the operating room." 

"The doctors are like 99.9 percent sure it matched and they aren't 100 percent sure until it's physically in their hands. We just don't know," she said. 

Summer was born on July 19, 2018, about three and a half weeks earlier than expected. During her second month appointment, doctors noticed that Summer had "extremely yellow skin" and she was diagnosed with jaundice. Doctors determined that the yellow skin was due to Summer's liver failing to excrete bile. 

"It had nowhere else to go but the rest of her body," Summer's mother said. 

The family took Summer to Oishei Children's Hospital for blood work and they were later sent to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital for additional testing. On Sept. 24, Summer had a Kasai Procedure, which attached the intestine to the liver so the bile could be drained. She was diagnosed with Bilary Artesia after the Kasai Procedure. 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines it as "a condition in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked. Bile can’t flow into the intestine, so bile builds up in the liver and damages it. The damage leads to scarring, loss of liver tissue and function, and cirrhosis."

The entire ordeal has impacted the family in numerous ways. 

Maria Laforme said she no longer can work because of the special medicine that her daughter has to be given. Summer also can't go anywhere outside of the home because doctors don't want her to be exposed to any germs. They also can't introduce germs into the home, so they can't have friends or family at their house. 

Two fundraisers were setup to help raise money for the family's medical expenses. The March 30 benefit was organized by Rainbow of Help Inc. at Wrights Corner Fire Co. and the proceeds from the annual Niagara-Orleans Bud Gillings/Gordon Botting Memorial Bowling Tournament & Basket Raffle, which was held on March 9, were donated to the family as well. 

Maria Laforme thanked all of the March 30 benefit attendees, saying her family was "very overwhelmed with how well the benefit went." 

A FaceBook page has been created to follow Summer Laforme's journey and can be found at facebook.com/summerfaithsjourney.