Sonya White could never have guessed the role she would play in the life of her great niece Raine Keir. Looking back, she says it’s been a “scary ride, but this is a ride I’d do again tomorrow.”
Sonya and her husband spent a lot of time caring for Raine since she was born on April 29, 2008. When she was 3 ½ months old, the Whites became her primary guardians. “We changed our whole lives around to care for her,” Sonya recalls.
The first sign that anything was wrong with the little girl came during a doctor’s visit, when Sonya mentioned Raine’s odd coloring. The doctor ordered tests and found her bilirubin to be unusually high. High levels of bilirubin can lead to serious health complications and may indicate a more serious problem with the liver or pancreas. Raine was scheduled to have more tests the following week, but before she could make that appointment Raine became violently ill.
Sonya rushed her to the emergency room, where doctors performed more tests. “I remember they came out and I’ll never forget it,” Sonya says. “They said Raine would have to have a liver transplant.” They were sent to Children’s of Alabama where, Sonya says, “Everything fell together.”
Doctors explained that Raine had developed hepatitis before she was born, but went undiagnosed even after birth. Her condition escalated into a liver disease known as biliary atresia, and then she developed cirrhosis of the liver. Her condition was dire. She was placed on the transplant list and told it could take up to two years for Raine to get a liver.
It took just a few weeks for a liver match to be found. On Christmas Eve 2008, just before her 8-month birthday, Raine underwent transplant surgery.
Today, Raine is an energetic 4 ½-year-old. Her health has dramatically improved. She still has regular checkups at Children’s and considers it her home away from home. “I cannot express how grateful I am to everyone at Children’s,” Sonya says. “They are family to us.”