Liam Cerda's sister underwent the same procedure five years ago

By Alex Heigl
Updated April 04, 2016 04:10 PM

Five years ago, Julissa Cerda brought her infant daughter Delilah to the Miami Transplant Institute for a rare multi-organ transplant. This year, she and her husband Jose Garza had to repeat the process with their son, 1-year-old son Liam.

Both of the Cerda-Garza’s children were diagnosed with Berdon syndrome, a rare disease that affects one in about one in a million children. It affects the muscles of the bladders and bowels and makes it impossible for children to hold down food. Most babies born with it don’t live longer than a year without treatment.

“It didn’t make it any easier to have to do it twice,” Cerda told the Miami Herald. “As a parent, it’s very hard,” she said. “But I stay strong for both of them. They’re the ones going through it. I’m just the support system.”

Liam underwent Florida’s first-ever eight-organ transplant, receiving a new liver, stomach, large and small intestine, pancreas, kidneys and bladder. The nine-hour surgery wasn’t a sure thing: “The doctors didn’t guarantee us he was going to make it because he was so ill,” Cerda said. (Delilah, now 6 years old, received seven new organs in 2011.)

Liam, who turned 1 on Feb. 17, hasn’t left a hospital since his birth and has lived his entire life being fed intravenously through his chest. Now, several weeks after the surgery, he’s begun to eat solid foods, including carrots, peas and bananas.

Hopefully, Liam will be coming home in about four weeks. But both he and his sister face a lifetime of anti-rejection medicine and regular hospital visits. But their odds are looking good, pediatric gastroentereologist Jennifer Garcia, who cares for the pair, told the Herald.

“Outcomes from intestinal transplant have really improved over the last 20 years,” Garcia said. “The one-year survival is about 90 percent for pediatrics. The five-year survival rate is about 70 to 80 percent. And once you get past five years, it plateaus and stays at 70 to 80 percent.”