NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sunday will mark a very special Father’s Day for one Long Island family. Jon De Rise is an NYPD officer who has given his son the gift of life, not once, but twice.
“I’m at a loss for words. I value life and I value each and every day now,” De Rise recently told CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois.
De Rise’s son, Michael, celebrated his first birthday this week, but three months ago he was critically ill.
“He was extremely jaundiced; he was very yellow. He was very tiny, because, essentially, he couldn’t digest his food,” Michael’s mother, Karen, said.
Michael was born with a chronic liver disease called “biliary atresia,” a condition that gets progressively worse, doctors said.
“They’re really malnourished. They don’t have the strength to sit up, to roll over, things that other babies can do,” gastroenterologist Dr. Debra Kogan Lieberman explained.
Doctors at Montefiore Children’s Hospital eventually determined that Michael needed a liver transplant.
“Fortunately, if you need an organ, the liver is the one that you can get because it can grow back,” Karen said.
Doctors explained how even a small piece of a full grown liver can help to save a baby’s life.
“We can cut the liver and get just a small piece,” pediatric transplant surgeon Dr. Dominique Jan said. “It will match very well the abdomen of the baby and we can reconnect the liver, which will work absolutely like a normal liver.”
Extensive testing revealed that Michael’s father would be an ideal match. Jon said he never hesitated.
“The focus was always about Michael. It was less about me and my discomfort. The fact that Michael’s life was in jeopardy and he was in the beginning stages of organ failure, so we had to stop that,” Jon said.
For Karen, the situation caused a significant amount of worry. She had a critically ill son, a husband recovering from major surgery, and a 4-year-old at home.
“I could never have gone through what my wife did. I could never have lived in the hospital for a month,” Jon said. “To have the mental fortitude to do that is something I greatly admire.”
After surgery Michael showed immediate improvement.
“We don’t have to do a lot of magic. The liver did the magic. The transformation happens when the liver is working, so the nutrients get absorbed. The baby starts growing and everything goes back into place,” Dr. Kogan explained.
Jon has fully recovered and returned to work as a police officer, and Michael is continuing to make progress.
“It’s night and day. The moment he came home he started to get better. You can’t imagine how that makes you feel,” Jon said.
So far, Michael’s prognosis is positive.
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