A young boy is living his best life four months after receiving a life-saving liver transplant from a transplant intensive care unit nurse who was touched by his story and decided to help out.
Brayden Auten, 8, was home on April 25 when he became sick with a stomach ache and diarrhea.
His parents, James and Ruth Auten of Wrightstown, Wisconsin, thought it could be the flu until they noticed Brayden’s eyes were yellow. They immediately took the third-grader at Wrightstown Elementary School to a primary care clinic, where his sickness took a turn for the worse and his skin began to turn yellow as well.
Brayden was admitted to the Children's Hospital of Milwaukee on April 26.
After doing an ultrasound, doctors found that his liver was functioning incorrectly. As the days passed, Brayden’s liver stopped working completely.
"We were terrified. … We didn't know what was going on for the first week," James Auten told ABC News Thursday. "As parents, we just wanted to know what was going on with our son."
Even though the doctors were unsure about which virus Brayden had that was causing his liver to fail, they knew that he needed a liver transplant as soon as possible. The family began scrambling to find a match for their son. Many family members and friends were tested to see whether they were a match but no one was.
Cami Loritz, a nurse who works in the transplant intensive care unit at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, heard of Brayden’s situation and wanted to help in some way. She signed up to be a living donor and decided to give part of her liver to Brayden, according to ABC News Milwaukee affiliate WISN-TV.
Loritz's surgery took place on May 14 at Froedtert Hospital. Brayden's took place on the same day at the Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.
James Auten told ABC News that they didn't know Loritz because she wanted to stay anonymous, but said she "was going to meet us once the surgery was successful."
Two weeks after surgery, the hospital set up a meeting for Loritz and Brayden to meet in the hospital where they embraced each other with hugs.
"Brayden was nervous and I don't think fully understood what happened and what she did. … He does now though and thinks of her like a big sister," Auten said.
(MORE: Doctors complete first living kidney transplant from one HIV-positive person to another)"It was fun meeting him and seeing him, like, starting to feel better. I had no reason not to go through it," Loritz told WISN-TV.
In a Sept. 4 post on Facebook, Loritz thanked her family, friends and hospital family for supporting her and Brayden.
"Now that we are almost 4 months post-transplant it’s heartwarming seeing Brayden enjoy being a kid again, no argument he’s stinkin’ cute! I am beyond thankful his family gets the chance to have their little boy back and healthy," Loritz said. "With that said, both the Auten’s and I don’t want this happy ending to end here. ... Living organ donation is a FEASIBLE concept to SAVE LIVES! On top of all the love and support we’ve received we’re asking for your help to educate the public and raise awareness about living organ donation. Help us lessen the deficit between the number of organs needed and the number of organs available. ... *Special shout out and thank you to the Transplant Team, Transplant ICU, and 4NW staff (especially nurses 😉) at Froedtert Hospital for making this all possible!"
On June 4, Brayden was released from the hospital and moved to a Ronald McDonald House for a few weeks.
James Auten said that Brayden is doing great and all his vitals are stable. He said that his family still hasn’t found out Brayden’s diagnosis and that doctors told him they probably won’t ever find out.