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Folsom Toddler Thrives After Life-Saving Liver Transplant

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Just 3 years old, Luca Salcone of Folsom has already had a run of health issues from diabetes to infantile spasms to a liver transplant. Now, to celebrate Luca’s survival, his parents will be on a run themselves on May 5 to raise money and awareness for organ donations.

Luca’s journey began at just 2 months old when he was among one of the youngest patients in Sacramento to be diagnosed with neonatal diabetes, better known as type 1 diabetes. Just four months later, Luca developed infantile spasms, a rare epilepsy disorder, which if not detected and treated right away could lead to brain damage.

With his infantile spasms and diabetes under control, his parents’ joy was short-lived when they received the devastating news the following year that Luca was in need of a liver transplant.

It began on Dec. 4, 2010, when Luca came down with a sudden illness and was rushed to the ICU at Sutter Memorial Hospital. Lehman Black, M.D., determined Luca’s liver enzymes were sky-high and had Luca airlifted to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University. Once at Stanford, Luca’s conditioned worsened and doctors diagnosed him with liver failure and immediately placed Luca at the top of the national organ donors list. As baby Luca’s condition worsened by each passing hour, the Salcones received the news they were waiting for– a liver match had been found just in time.

Less than one week after his liver failure symptoms first began, Luca underwent a liver transplant. Luca and his parents, Chris and Katie, spent the next six weeks in the ICU at Lucille Packard and then another six weeks in the Ronald McDonald house nearby. His father, Chris Salcone, a nurse at Sutter Memorial Hospital’s cardiac cath lab, said his son’s condition after the transplant was critical and he was in and out of the hospital for several months.

“It was very touch-and-go after the transplant,” Chris said. “Luca was against the odds and was somehow able to pull through.”

After experiencing several setbacks since his transplant, Chris said his son is now doing great and just celebrated the one-year anniversary of his new liver.

“Luca had some rejection at first, but we changed his medicine and he is thriving right now,” Chris said. “He is growing and developing and catching up so fast. He had to learn how to crawl and walk again, and he is all but caught up developmentally.”

Luca’s parents know it’s because of the National Organ Registry that their son is alive today. In honor of Luca and other transplant patients and donors, they will be participating in the Team Donate Life relay race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. The 12 member- 200-mile run promotes organ donations, where the passing of the baton from team members signifies the passing of one organ to another.

“I knew I would never be able to show enough gratitude for this unbelievable gift of my own son’s life,” Chris said. “By running this race to promote organ donation, I feel that I can begin to pay that gift forward. About 110,000 Americans are on transplant waiting lists and 17 of them die every day while waiting for an organ transplant so we want to do what we can to bring awareness and make a difference.”

Luca’s doctor, Ganagurudasan Prakasam, M.D., medical director, Pediatric Endocrine and Diabetes at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, couldn’t be happier with his young patient.

“Luca is an inspiration and a fighter,” Dr. Prakasam said. “Children like him are the reason we physicians have to fight for every child, every day…because it’s worth it.”

To help support Luca and Team Donate Life, visit www.teamdonatelife.com, click on “Support a Team,” and look for the “Running for Luca’s Donor” team on the bottom of the page.


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