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Liver transplant
Zach Byars

When Zach Byars was admitted to Children’s of Alabama as a newborn, he found much more than just physical healing. He also found his forever family.

Zach arrived in Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with an ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, a rare inherited disorder that causes ammonia to accumulate in the blood. Ammonia, which is formed when proteins are broken down in the body, is toxic if the levels become too high. Zach was in need of a liver transplant, but he couldn’t get one until he had a stable family.

He was moved to Children’s Special Care Unit, where he met his nurse and eventual adoptive mother Amy Byars.

“I just fell in love with Zach when I met him,” Amy said. “My husband, John, and I do foster care, so I went home one day and asked John about fostering Zach. He said OK and it all went from there.”

One week after Amy and John became Zach’s foster parents, Zach received a liver transplant.

“I can’t say enough about the transplant team at Children’s,” Amy said. “Transplant Coordinator Robin Greer stood by our side, fought for Zach and helped us through the process. She was there for us through it all.”

Three weeks after the transplant, Zach was discharged home with the Byars, but he soon experienced complications. He first suffered from a biliary stricture, or an abnormal narrowing of the bile ducts. For one year, Zach had tubes inserted into the ducts every six weeks to expand them. Zach also experienced multiple septic episodes that required a visit to Children’s allergist and immunologist Dr. Prescott Atkinson. Atkinson discovered Zach suffers from a primary immune disorder, resulting in weekly intravenous immunoglobulin treatments at home.

“Once Dr. Atkinson was able to find that, it really resolved a lot of the issues Zach was dealing with from an infection standpoint,” Amy said. “It was a big deal to get that figured out.”

Zach’s doctor visits, however, didn’t end there. Chronic ear infections led Children’s otolaryngologist Dr. Audie Woolley to implant a bone-anchored hearing aid that Woolley continues to monitor. Zach also suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative retinal disease that typically leads to blindness.

“Those first three years after transplant Zach spent in and out of the hospital, but now he’s gone two years without any hospitalizations, without being sick and just being healthy and thriving,” Amy said. “You don’t anticipate that many complications, but we got through it all together.”
Despite the obstacles, Zach brought unfathomable joy to the Byars family. Amy and John officially adopted Zach, joining their three other children, Sallie, Luke and Molly.

“Our bond with Zach is so strong,” Amy said. “From the minute he came home with us, we all loved him. He’s such a special little boy, and he’s done so much no one ever expected, like walking and talking. He’s a miracle.”
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