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My Little Angel's Struggle . . . & How It Changed My Life

My name is Thelma King Thiel, but I am internationally known by my nom de plume "The Liver Lady," having promoted liver health education for over 45 years following the loss of my precious son, Dean, to biliary atresia. Witnessing Dean's struggle changed my life.

Dean was diagnosed at two weeks of age with cirrhosis of the liver. We were given no hope that he would survive more than a year or two.

Devastated and heartbroken by this diagnosis, I simply could not accept the fact that this could happen to my baby. Cirrhosis is a disease of alcoholics! I didn’t drink when I was pregnant. Hundreds of questions were racing through my head. Doctors were frustrated and baffled by a disease called Biliary Atresia, without a clue about the origin of this disease. There simply were no answers.

As a nurse, there had to be something I could do to save my baby’s life. Tears and anxious prayers pleading for a cure to be found filled each day as I watched Dean struggle to cope with the increasingly devastating complications of cirrhosis.

There were daily episodes of nausea and vomiting. At one point his legs were strung up in traction when he broke his hip tripping over a toy; six months later he broke his other hip. This time he was trapped in a body cast for three months. Can you imagine the torture of feeling like ants were crawling around inside your cast?? Itching is a common occurrence related to liver damage. His fragile bones were attributed to the fact that he couldn’t absorb vitamin and minerals from the food he ate.

My littlest angel never complained. However, when he asked me to “take off his foot because it itched inside,” I had to fight back the tears. I was helpless. Countless nights were spent in a rocking chair holding him close, loving him and attempting to keep him from scratching himself even in his sleep.

A couple of days before Christmas 44 years ago, our family sat around planning the activities for the holiday with our extended family. Concerned about Dean’s health and traveling in the rapidly accumulating snow, I suggested that I stay home with him. Sitting in my lap and listening to our discussion, Dean reached up with his little hand, touching my cheek and said, “I’ll get better Mom”. Those were the last endearing words I heard from my littlest angel. Dean lost his courageous battle with cirrhosis the next day, on Christmas Eve.

Surrounded by family and friends on Christmas Day to say goodbye to Dean, I vowed to do all I could to prevent other children and their families from experiencing similar heartbreaking tragedies and suffering in their lives.

Dean’s Legacy—

Four decades of promoting life saving liver health messages have touched the lives of millions around the world in his memory.

Please join me on this journey. Learning how to take care of your liver – your life preserver – is essential to you and your children’s future health and well being. Working together, we can educate individuals about the importance of the liver, and why and how to take care of it from harm.

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