Thinking About Children’s Liver Health


Associated with excessive alcohol use, cirrhosis is one condition that can affect the pediatric population in the absence of alcohol.

When my newborn baby’s pediatrician asked me, “Did you drink when you were pregnant?” I was shocked and surprised. “No, of course not…Why do you ask?” With a bowed head he responded, “Your baby is showing signs of cirrhosis and we don’t know why.” At that time, 57 years ago, there were no diagnostic tools available, no treatments, and no hope for his survival.

Without answers to my questions, exploratory surgery was recommended at 2 weeks of age to identify the genesis of his cirrhosis. Biopsies identified the absence of bile ducts in his liver which were needed to transport bile created by liver cells to protect his body from dangerous toxins and to support the life sustaining digestive process and hundreds of life creating and sustaining liver cell’s functions. The blockage of bile led to damage of liver cells called scarring or cirrhosis. In addition to blocking bile’s essential distribution, bile backed up in his blood stream causing yellowing of his skin called jaundice. This is what alerted my doctor that my son, Dean, was having liver trouble.

Bile releases essential vitamins and nutrients trapped inside ingested food needed by liver cells to perform miracles creating bones, muscles, immune and clotting factors and hundreds of life sustaining body parts and functions. Without bile, the vitamins and nutrients are flushed out through the intestinal tract. Without bile’s protection, my baby was unable to rid his body of poisonous toxins in pollution, foods, etc. Toxins remained in his body causing additional damage to numerous body functions.

Without any warning, I had no idea what all this meant to Dean and his struggling body. He was sleep deprived due to constant Itching of his jaundiced skin. When something woke me one night, I found his head in a pool of blood. He had scratched his ear in his sleep and a tiny abrasion just kept bleeding due to his lack of Vitamin K. Taking his first baby step he tumbled and broke his hip. Following a lengthy recovery in the hospital, he came home. A few weeks later he tripped and broke his other hip and tibia. This time, trapped in a body cast, he was tortured 24/7 with constant itching inside the cast. When he asked me “Mommy can you take my foot off because it itches inside?” It broke my heart. Each time I picked him up an unidentified pulmonary infarct in his lungs caused a stabbing pain. Daily bouts of diarrhea carried essential vitamins and nutrients away which were needed by his liver cells to sustain all his body functions.

All these issues were related to his cirrhotic liver cells. Without sufficient healthy liver cells remaining, Dean lost his 4-year battle with cirrhosis on Christmas eve 53 years ago. Tragically, the lack of support for liver research and liver education was influenced by the liver being a non-complaining organ unable to warn its owner of trouble. Hundreds of victims of dozens of unrecognized liver diseases were thought to be substance abusers that had developed cirrhosis.

Ignorance about the liver continues today that underlies many liver-related chronic diseases that can lead to cirrhosis—diseases that are potentially preventable. These include obesity and 13 types of obesity-related cancers, fatty liver disease, NASH, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular events that can lead to heart attacks and strokes, hepatitis, alcohol and drug misuse and abuse.

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