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Tyson's Birthday

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Posted 10/13/2014

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For the first eleven years of his life, Tyson Smith did everything a normal kid would do. He went to school, played with friends and had birthday parties. His normal life changed when complications arose after a bout of H1N1 influenza. His parents took him to the doctor in their small home town of Sharon Springs, Kansas. Tyson couldn't eat; he was weak; he was losing weight. "By the time we took him to the children's hospital in Denver, I had to carry him. He couldn't walk," remembers Tyson's father Justin Smith. "In less than a year, he lost half his body weight. Forty-two pounds." Over the next several years, there were numerous surgeries and hospital stays for Tyson. "Every holiday, every birthday we spent in the hospital," Smith says. His mother quit her job to care for him. His father would make the three hour drive from Denver to Sharon Springs to continue working to support the family. Neighbors and co-workers pitched in. But Tyson's health was still failing. He could no longer eat and received all his nutrition through a feeding tube. "I lived for months in the hospital, ICU stays," Tyson says. "Many times, I had to say my goodbyes to my family. I heard doctors say I wasn't going to make it; that they could make me comfortable, but that there wasn't really anything they could do." His condition worsened to the point that physicians in Denver said Tyson might be a candidate for an intestinal transplant. They were referred to The Nebraska Medical Center's Intestinal Rehab and Transplant Program. It's a decision the Smiths are very glad they made. "The care has been awesome," Tyson's mom Wendy Smith says. "He got his second chance. He's going to make it." "Tyson is fortunate in that he had care from some excellent doctors before he got here to see us," says Dr. David Mercer, Tyson's transplant surgeon. "When we got a chance to talk to him, we said, yeah, you're a perfect example of someone who's life is in front of him. There are lots of things we can do. He's living proof in a very short time of how well you can do going through the process." Tyson's transplant team has every reason to be optimistic. One month and three days after having his intestine, liver and pancreas transplanted, Tyson was out of the hospital. "He's made an excellent recovery," says David F. Mercer, MD, PhD, Tyson's transplant surgeon. "He should be able to do what he wants, what activities he wants to; travel, be whatever he wants when he grows up." Tyson had just gotten used to eating again after so many years on feeding tubes. The idea of a birthday party with actual cake was a lot for him to process. "It's going to be very emotional. I haven't done anything like that in over five years. It's a huge milestone in my life. It's my 17th birthday, but it's like the first day of my life. It represents a new beginning." For more information about the intestinal transplant and rehabilitation program at The Nebraska Medical Center, visit http://www.nebraskamed.com/transplant/intestine or call 1-800-922-0000