Smiley first-grader Ke’ala Thomas recovering from sudden liver failure

by Symptom Advice on January 16, 2012

REDLANDS — The hope is that Ke’ala Thomas makes a full recovery.

The 6-year-old’s mother Candace and step-father Josh are optimistic that the worst is over.

But the ordeal of Ke’ala’s liver transplant surgery may linger for the Redlands family.

The exact cause of Ke’ala’s liver failure is not clear yet. Her condition resembled a bad cold in early December when she was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Ke’ala then began to experience symptoms of jaundice.

Ke’ala was sick for Christmas, and, after more labwork was completed, doctors discovered Ke’ala had a high sugar count and needed to return to the hospital.

Later that day, Dec. 30, Ke’ala was diagnosed with liver failure.

“I pretty much collapsed into tears,” said Candace Thomas, 25. “It was overwhelming. It all happened so fast. there was no time to think. I thought I could lose my daughter. will she die in my arms?”

Then doctors determined that Ke’ala needed to be transported to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Candace and Ke’ala were put in a helicopter and flew there.

Three days later Ke’ala underwent a 10-hour liver transplant surgery.

“It started at 4 p.m., and we didn’t get to see her again until about midnight,” Candace said. “I couldn’t handle it. you have to be prepared for the worst.”

Candace and Josh did their best to explain it to Ke’ala.

“I don’t know if she ever fully wrapped her mind around how bad it was,” Josh said. “It’s tough to explain to a 6-year-old.”

Ke’ala remains at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. She had a rough time the day after surgery but she is recovering.

“She is very responsive,” Candace said. “She has her spunky attitude, if not more.”

On Monday Candace went to Smiley Elementary School where Ke’ala attends first grade, to arrange homework assignments.

“Her teacher was devastated,” Candace said. “We don’t want her to fall behind in school. If she is feeling good enough to do artwork, we feel she can do homework too.”

The surgery itself cost in excess of $230,000 and the family will need to meet costs that have come with the experience, including missed work and gasoline from commuting to Los Angeles.

The Thomases have been using the accommodations of the Ronald McDonald House.

Fund-raising efforts have begun and the family has started a blog and Facebook page called starsforkeala.

“The cost was something I couldn’t even think of,” Josh said. “It was like it wasn’t real. It was like I was running from it.”

Reach Ed via email, or call him at 909-793-3221

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