NEW YORK - In the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic little Nathaniel Capelo was fighting for his life. He experienced liver failure starting in October and was in the ICU, on and off ventilators for months after. Doctors told Nathaniel’s parents, Dennis and Alex, there was a strong chance their now 7-month-old son would not survive.
“There was a chance that he may not even make it to transplant, that’s how sick he was,” said Nathaniel’s father, Dennis Capelo.
“Like a battle between keeping hope and being very scared, I guess not knowing what was going to happen,” said Nathaniel’s mother, Alex Ramos.
Many hospitals’ transplant departments shut down because of the all-hands-on-deck coronavirus response. At Mount Sinai, all living donor programs closed, but deceased donor programs stayed open. It was a miracle for Nathaniel and his family, who live in Astoria, Queens.
“Really became clear in the first three months of life that he would need an urgent liver transplant to save his life,” said Dr. Kishore Iyer. He and half a dozen other surgeons at The Mount Sinai Hospital worked together on Nathaniel’s incredibly unique case. First, a donated liver was split between Nathaniel and another recipient.
“Having taken this usual piece that we use for smaller babies we had to actually cut down that liver even smaller to make it appropriate for Nathaniel,” said Dr. Iyer. He says that that type of rare transplant only happens two to three times a year in the United States if even that much.
There was an appropriate celebration in the hallways of Mount Sinai when Nathaniel was released two weeks ago, with dedicated healthcare workers singing farewell.
“This was impossible, obviously you have to keep the faith and keep praying and believing that it can happen, but the situation was just escalating so rapidly and there was like no hope. What the doctors and staff are able to do and receiving that organ donor, it was a blessing, a big blessing,” said Capelo.