Two-year-old miracle baby Meredith Brown and her family have a lot to celebrate this spring.

Today, Meredith, who was a liver transplant recipient at just seven months of age at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, is thriving.

The fund set up in her name by friends and family wanting to help following her diagnosis of biliary atresia is growing, and a major art auction featuring artists such as Elly Hobgood of Canton is planned in Atlanta May 10 to raise more money for research.

The doctor who headed up the team to get Meredith on the road to a healthy life published breakthrough research in March into the childhood disease of the liver in which one or more bile ducts are abnormally narrow, blocked or absent. That effort continues paid for in part by the Meredith Brown Foundation.

Shortly after Meredith was born to parents Ashley Fincher Brown and Chris Brown in February 2017, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia.

Both parents, who grew up in Canton and are now Cobb County residents, credit doctors and staff at Children’s Healthcare with the miracle that has their baby leading a healthy, happy life today.

“She is doing great; she has met her developmental and growth milestones. An organ transplant is a lifelong medical diagnosis, but other than that, she is healthy in every other way,” Ashley Brown said in March. “She never laughed before the transplant. She never slept through the night. It is such a difference between pre-transplant and post-transplant.”

But the road has not been easy.

“She was yellow and had yellow eyes at her one-week checkup,” Ashley said. “At six weeks I went for breast feeding therapy. They said she had not gained any weight, she looked more yellow, and they sent us immediately to our pediatrician.”

When the doctor recognized that the baby’s stomach was swollen, she sent the baby immediately for blood work, Ashley said.

After the test results came in, Meredith was sent to Scottish Rite Hospital, where she stayed from March 23 to May 15, right before Mother’s Day.

During her stay, doctors performed a procedure to reconstruct the bile ducts and restore bile flow. While they were hopeful there would be a fix, Meredith’s parents were aware there could be issues later on.

Meredith was doing well until soon after the surgery, when her parents noticed her stomach swelling once again. They rushed her back to Children’s and learned she had developed a bile leak.

Shortly after treatment for the bile leak, Meredith had to have a second surgery and 16 inches of her small intestine were removed due to a blockage.

But once home, when Meredith continued to have issues, the Browns reached out to Dr. Saul Karpen, pediatric hepatologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

Karpen is the doctor who determined Meredith would need a liver transplant to survive.

“I reached out to Dr. Karpen at Egleston right when Meredith was discharged, hoping to be able to direct the money being donated to Meredith to his research,” Ashley recalls. “Rather than respond about the money, he said he wanted to be her doctor and take over her care.”

Not long after that, her name was placed on the transplant list. Her surgery was performed one month later in September 2017, a move the family credits with saving her life.

“For the first time in her young life, Meredith finally had a healthy, functioning liver,” Ashley said. “She would not be here without Children’s.”

Meredith and her sister Grace, who is 5, now have the chance to enjoy a normal life as sisters.

“They have so much fun together. Grace loves having her home and not to go back and forth to the hospital. Now that she is not so medically fragile they can really have a good time together,” Ashley said. “Meredith is so busy. She is thriving and she has finally been given the chance to be a normal kid and she will be starting school in August.”

Most of all, Meredith’s parents are thankful the outcome was good for their daughter.

“There are so many times we could have lost her and the only way she is here is because she got a donated organ. She is here today because of an organ donor,” Ashley said.

Now the doctor who headed up efforts at Children’s Healthcare to give Meredith a healthy life has published research into why some babies get the disease in the first place, research that is being called a major breakthrough.

Children’s Healthcare announced in March that a nationwide consortium of researchers, including Karpen, has potentially identified the first genetic defect linked to biliary atresia.

Biliary atresia is the leading cause of liver transplants for children.

Supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Karpen teamed up with pediatric liver specialists across the country to gather enough patients for a genetic study, which was 15 years in the making.

The results of the research by the team of doctors including Karpen were published in the journal Hepatology.

The causes of biliary atresia were unknown, so the research study is a major advance that will move the field of pediatric liver disease forward, Karpen said in a release from Children’s Healthcare.

“Having the first plausible gene for BA is arguably one of the biggest findings in the field for decades,” Karpen said in the release.

Study participants came from the Childhood Liver Disease Research Network (ChiLDReN), which includes researchers from Texas, Utah, Washington, California, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, New York and Illinois.

ChiLDReN is supported by the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (U01DK062470). Additional support came from the Cade R. Alpard Foundation for Pediatric Liver Disease, the Spain Foundation and the Meredith Brown Foundation.

The BA Hero Fund was started by six mothers, including Ashley Brown, who have walked their young children through liver transplants.

Their inaugural fundraiser, an International Art Night, is 7 — 10 p.m., May 10 at the Marriott Atlanta Century Center. The evening will include live music, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and more. All proceeds from the evening directly benefit the Biliary Atresia Research Program at Children’s Healthcare headed by Karpen.

For more on the fundraiser, visit

https://baherofund.com

For ways to donate to the

Meredith Brown Foundation, visit

bit.ly/MeredithBrownFund

To find out more about Meredith and

her journey, visit her Facebook page at

www.facebook.com/MeredithKBrown

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