Ericca Cadwallader of Portage celebrated her 19th birthday Monday in a Pittsburgh hospital.
On Friday, the teen gave part of her liver to her 5-year-old cousin and is recovering following her surgery at UPMC Montefiore Hospital.
Her little cousin is recovering as well, at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
For Ericca, that’s all that matters.
Having to celebrate her birthday cake in a hospital room is a small price to pay.
“The first words out of her mouth after the surgery were ‘Mom, did I save his life?’ ” Sherry Cadwallader recalled.
Events that led to the operation happened quickly.
Until two weeks ago, Andrew Davis, the only son of Robin and Wes Davis of Portage, was a healthy child.
According to his aunt, the child became ill after participating in a wrestling match at school.
“His eyes were all yellow,” she said.
The boy’s parents took the child to an urgent-care center, but were told it was probably a virus and sent home.
In the next few days, they visited their pediatrician and Altoona Hospital.
“His liver function was a little elevated, but they thought that could be from a virus,” Cadwallader said.
“The poor guy had three or four days in a row of needles.”
After several days of watching their child get progressively more yellow, the parents got in touch with Children’s Hospital.
It was still considered a viral problem, but after two trips to Pittsburgh, Andrew was admitted to the hospital.
“They didn’t know what was going on,” his aunt said. “They considered him stable, but he was yellow.
“He just turned yellow.”
A transplant team was called in – just in case.
“As soon as Ericca heard they were talking transplant, she was wondering who could be used for a donor,” Cadwallader said.
One by one all of the little boy’s relatives were ruled out.
“That left Ericca,” her mother said.
Although everyone hoped it would not be necessary, the teen was tested.
“She gave 19 tubes of blood, had chest X-ray, scans, talked to social workers,” her mother said.
She was a match.
In the meantime, things were not going well for her little cousin.
“Andy was put in intensive care.
“He went downhill really quickly,” his aunt said.
For Ericca, there was no question what she would do.
“There was no thinking involved,” she said. “It was just something I knew I was going to do.”
Although just 18, it was her choice, her mother said.
“She had no reservations. She was absolutely ready to do it.”
Sherry Cadwallader said things happened very quickly, and although her daughter was confident, she was not that sure.
“I was afraid,” she said.
The surgery took eight hours but went smoothly and Ron and Sherry Cadwallader look forward to taking their daughter home in a few days.
Ericca said it was not as bad as she had anticipated.
“I thought I would be in a lot of pain,” she said.
The road to recovery will go a little slower for Andrew, but he also is doing well.
“His color is all back to normal,” his aunt said, but added that doctors still do not know what happened to the little boy.
“We may never know.”
The Cadwalladers could not be more proud of their daughter.
“She absolutely saved his life,” Sherry Cadwallader said.
“His liver was 60 percent gone. He would probably not have made it through the weekend.
“It’s been a very emotional couple of days.”
She calls her daughter “amazing” and said the girl is in college doing prerequisite work to become a nurse.
“She is an EMT and a firefighter with Portage,” her mother said.
Ericca Cadwallader looks forward to getting back to her busy life and has no regrets for donating a piece of herself to the little boy she has babysat for since his birth.
“Just knowing that he is going to get better makes it worth it,” she said.