‘He’s a fighter’: 9-year-old in need of 5 new organs finds match at UPMC Children’s Hospital

PITTSBURGH — The Perez family has been waiting nine years for a multi-organ transplant for their son. They got the call this week that UPMC Children’s Hospital had a match for all five organs their he needed.

The family, who lives in Michigan, immediately started their travels to Pittsburgh where their 9-year-old successfully underwent surgery.

Pittsburgh is one of only one places in the country that performs multi-organ transplants.

When the Perez family found out that their son would need surgery, they immediately placed him on the transplant list and have been waiting ever since.

Mickaela Perez, her husband Joshua and daughter Bella are thrilled for Jake, a 9-year-old who has been battling a rare disease since birth.

Mickaela Perez said, “It’s called microvillus inclusion disease. Super rare, not many kids or people have this in the entire world.”

Because Jake doesn’t have the ability to absorb nutrients from food, he’s been on IV nutrition his entire life.

“He is a fighter, we’re calling him the little Incredible Hulk,” Mickaela said.

Doctors told the Perez family that Jake would need to have multiple organs transplanted - all from the same donor.

“He had to have 5, so the stomach, liver, pancreas, large and small intestine,” she said.

They were placed on a transplant list and for nine years, they’ve waited - until Monday at 3:30 p.m. The family says it’s a bit surreal and say they’d started to give up hope that it would ever happen for Jake.

Father Joshua Perez said, “We’ve been waiting for nine years and then two weeks later we get the call.”

His sister Bella Perez said, “A dream come true. Since he was born, every Christmas present, every birthday wish, every shooting star has been to get him his tummy.”

They promptly packed their bags and flew from Michigan to Pittsburgh where Jake successfully underwent the 15 hour surgery Tuesday. And while Doctors told them it could take weeks for Jake to get out of the PICU - the 9-year-old did it in just two days.

Mickaela added, “They said they’ve never seen anybody go through a multi-visceral transplant and be able to not only be able to get the breathing tube out to be able to sit up and take steps.”

Jake will continue his recovery at Children’s for six weeks and then complete outpatient in Pittsburgh for the next six to eight months while he makes a full recovery. Loved ones say, it’s a new lease on life.

Joshua said, “I can play ball with him outside until it’s dark and not have to worry about coming into the house to hook him up to his IV. "

A new normal that the family says couldn’t have happened without organ donation.

Mickaela said, “There’s no words that I can say to say thank you enough I just hope that one day we’re able to meet this family and just say that we’re gonna take the best care possible of this little boy.”

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