A father's gift

Alfred State instructor Sean Kelley (left) donated a part of his liver to save the life of his 1-year-old son, Sawyer. Sean is shown with his wife, Josie, and Sawyer in recovery.

The inspiring story of an Alfred State College faculty member’s journey to save his son’s life caught the attention of a widely-viewed national news program.

Sean Kelley, an instructor with the Alfred State Electrical, Machine Tool and Welding Technology Department, lost 40 pounds in order to be able to donate a portion of his liver to save his 1-year-old son, Sawyer.

The child has a genetic disorder called Alagille syndrome and needed a liver transplant.

The headline on the website for ABC’s “Good Morning America” states, “This dad lost 40 pounds to save his son’s life: ‘It was pretty overwhelming.’”

According to Dr. George Mazariegos, Sawyer “needed a liver transplant because his liver had decompensated so badly that even at this early age at just over a year old, he really could not survive more than a month without a liver transplant.”

As mentioned in the story, Alagille syndrome “affects multiple organs in the body, including the liver and heart. It causes liver damage and is associated with several heart problems.” The condition affects three of Kelley’s seven children.

Initially, Kelley and his wife, Josie, worked with the team at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to find a donor. Kelley realized, however, that he himself may be able to serve as a potential donor. In order to go through the evaluation process, though, he needed to lose 40 pounds.

Kelley began the weight-loss process in August 2019 by tracking his caloric intake and exercising as much as possible. Finally, one day at work, he received a phone call confirming that he was indeed able to be a donor for his son.

The transplant took place on Dec. 19 and was a success. UPMC recorded photos and video during the family’s journey and documents how Kelley believes he and his son “are recovering smoothly despite a few post-surgery complications.”

Kelley adds that he and his family, who reside in West Almond in Allegany County, are “fortunate they were able to have the transplant done” and that they “hope to educate others about how being a living donor can save another’s life.”

Upon its release Friday, the “GMA” article was one of the top stories on its home page and the number one online video of the day. Check out the full story: www.gma.abc/2NswYZF.

Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is jeckstrom@oleantimesherald.com.)