EFFINGHAM — Annaka Robison's first birthday is on Sunday. For much of the little girl's short life, her family has been waiting for that phone call saying a liver for her has been found.
That call has finally come. The donor is a family friend.
Annaka was born with several birth defects and a rare condition called biliary atresia that keeps her liver from effectively removing bile. She's been on a transplant list since June.
Her parents are Josh and JaLana Robison of Effingham, both teachers in the Unit 40 school district. They also have two other children, Ellyana, 7, and Wade, 5.
"She is at the point where she can't wait much longer for a liver," said Josh Robison, who also writes local column for the Effingham Daily News.
After several offers for a live donation — the surgery involves both donor and recipient — a match was found in a family friend and fellow teacher, Nancy Ervin.
Ervin, 35, is also a Unit 40 teacher. She and her husband, Ryan, are the parents of Lincoln, 8, and Myles, 16 months.
The Ervin family has been spearheading many of the fundraisers for the Robison family to help with medical and travel expenses. Annaka has appointments in St. Louis twice a week for lab work and infusions, her father said. The next fundraiser is scheduled for Friday — a meal from 4-7 p.m. in the Hearts Rock Cafe at Effingham High School.
Barring any unforseen circumstances — or unless a liver from a cadaver is found — Ervin will undergo surgery on Jan. 3 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia to remove a portion of her liver, while at the same time surgery for Annaka will involve removing her deteriorating liver and giving her the portion removed from Ervin.
Doctors have explained to both families that Ervin's liver will return to normal size within 8-12 weeks and the same results are expected for Annaka in about the same time frame.
“St. Louis Children's Hospital decided (Annaka's) internal anatomy was too complicated for their facility to handle and they recommended Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, where they have the best pediatric liver transplant facility,” said Josh Robison.
His daughter's surgery is expected to take about 12 hours. Ervin's surgery is expected to take four or five hours.
“God has led her in this direction,” Josh Robison said of Ervin. “It's very humbling. She is living out her faith in a very pragmatic way.”
Ervin said the insurance company would only allow one person at a time to be tested for a match. After several people offered to be a live donor, the St. Louis hospital took medical information and health history from several and determined it was best to test her.
She said in the testing phase the medical team was looking for was the right size and shape of her liver and that her and Annaka have matching blood type. They used an EKG, MRI and X rays among other testing to determine her liver would be able to be shared.
“They (Robison family) can't get on the road to recovery without a liver transplant,” said Ervin. “The first six months post transplant is crucial for Annaka.”
Contact Dawn Schabbing at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 138
Free Will Donation Dinner
Country Rhodes will serve up a fish and chicken meal based on a free-will donation to assist with Annaka's gift of a liver. The fundraiser meal will be held from 4-7 p.m. Friday in the Hearts Rock Cafe at Effingham High School.