It was nothing short of a miracle for a Guelph mother when a complete stranger offered his liver for her baby who was on the verge of death battling a rare liver condition.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said Sheryl Benham in tears.
Benham’s son Matthew Philip Benham, now nine-month-old, was in Toronto’s SickKids in the summer for months battling biliary atresia, a condition where bile ducts in and around the liver are damaged and blocked.
As the baby’s condition rapidly deteriorated, a liver transplant became increasingly urgent.
In response to a GuelphToday article calling out for help, several people contacted SickKids offering their liver, and a match was found.
“It’s a big relief,” said Benham adding that she is at a loss of words to describe just how grateful she is to the liver donor, 25-year-old Derek Roy.
Baby Matthew who was previously unable to move, had yellow eyes and a swollen stomach successfully underwent surgery in September is happier, able to turn and is home with his family.
“His old liver is gone and the piece of liver from Derek is what will be his new liver and grow with him,” said Matthew’s aunt, Bernice Muma.
“It was like he was heaven-sent for us.”
She said at this point, Matthew is a totally new baby. “The change was pretty immediate post-op,” said Muma.
On Sunday, Roy was finally able to meet Matthew and Matthew’s family was eager to meet Roy. Matthew returned home over a week ago. Roy was able to resume work last week in good health.
“It was really special,” said Roy of his meeting with Matthew and his family.
“I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s not something I’ve experienced or anything before but it was special to see how well he was doing and how happy the family was,” said Roy.
He said after he read the article calling for help, he felt terrible and he knew he fit the age group and blood type required.
“I knew the chances of me being a match would be relatively small but I figured other people would also try to reach out and help so if I could at least increase the odds by volunteering, it’s the right thing to do to help out,” said Roy.
“He looks so much better now, it just leaves me speechless.”
Roy said his fiancé, his family, and his work was very supportive throughout the process.
Muma said Roy was resolute from the beginning that he would help, never faltering at any stage of the process even though it meant taking several weeks off of work and making multiple trips back and forth to Toronto from Guelph.
“It’s just unbelievable that somebody that doesn’t know you would do this for you,” said Muma adding that she received over 20 responses offering help but it needed to be someone with type O blood which really reduced the chances of finding a match.
“And never did he hint that he expects any kind of compensation. Not ever,” said Muma adding that Roy even sped the tests up as Matthew’s health further deteriorated.
“It made all the difference in the world having things done a couple of weeks earlier because I don’t think Matthew could have gone any longer because,” said Muma about Matthew’s condition when his kidneys shut down and his urine was black.
Benham said when Roy first got tested, she didn’t want to get her hopes up because she knew how slim the chances of finding a match were.
“When we got the date and the doctor came back to me saying Matthew will have his transplant finally, I said to my husband “I really don’t know what to say to this guy.”
She said she wanted to hug Roy but was unable to because of COVID-19 restrictions and felt helpless when she wanted to thank him.
Matthew is currently undergoing physiotherapy to help him develop the muscles he was unable to use because of his lack of moment.
“There’s a lot of catchup to be done. He’s very underweight because he simply did not gain weight in those months when he was so sick,” said Muma adding that Matthew is still on many medications.
“He couldn’t possibly survive without this transplant.”