BLOOMINGTON – April is national Donate Life Month. Rest assured that Claire Kaufman’s parents, and likely most of the town of Enon, Ohio, will be promoting organ donor awareness throughout this month and expressing gratitude for this toddler’s liver donor angel.
On Oct. 20, 2011, Kevin Kaufman and Leah Moliengo were filled with joy when their daughter, Claire Jace Kaufman, was born. However, their joy quickly turned to fear on day two of her life when baby Claire was diagnosed with biliary atresia. Current research suggests that children may have a genetic tendency to develop biliary atresia and also suggests that a mild virus may trigger an autoimmune process in a baby with this tendency. As the baby’s body tries to destroy the virus, it also attacks and damages the liver’s bile ducts. The build-up of bile damages the liver, resulting in cirrhosis. The damage cannot be reversed and the only cure is a liver transplant.
Once the diagnosis was made, Kevin and Leah spent the rest of 2011 and all of 2012 juggling numerous doctors’ visits, transplant team meetings, blood draws, feeding-therapy meetings and much more. These young parents were overwhelmed, but were hopeful. From the day of diagnosis, Kevin and Leah moved forward by finding the best medical care for Claire and by reaching out to family and friends for support. They also decided to start working with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) because they knew the financial reality of Claire’s transplant was going to be a huge hurdle.
A group of local volunteers quickly organized and a COTA team member traveled to Enon, Ohio, to get them trained and moving forward with fundraising for transplant-related expenses. The Enon volunteers named themselves, Claire’s Kare Bears, and from their first COTA event in honor of Claire, they received local media attention and drew a multitude of businesses and community members into their efforts. They worked tirelessly throughout 2012 planning and organizing fundraising events for COTA in honor of Claire to make sure this tiny baby received her second chance at life.