Vallejo resident Lauren Wilson's daughter is fighting to survive, and has been for most of her five months of life.
And while her will to live does not seem to have diminished, Makayla Faith Keltz's prospects have dimmed in recent weeks as money issues present a mounting obstacle to the infant getting the liver transplant she needs, Wilson, 25, said.
"She was born with a choloedochal cyst on her gall bladder," said Wilson, a certified nursing assistant. "She was in and out of the ER from the time she was a week old until she was three months."
That's when Makayla underwent surgery for an obstruction, the removal of the cyst and the gall bladder, and the repair of a malrotated stomach, Wilson said. A biopsy of the baby's liver was also taken at that time, intended to be "expedited to UCSF or Stanford" for evaluation, she said. But the sample wasn't sent for nine days, Wilson said, and in that time, Makayla suffered liver failure.
Wilson said she's seeking legal advice, but most of her time is consumed working to save her daughter, who at one point, was in a medically induced coma and transferred from Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center to Stanford's Lucille Packard Children's Hospital.
The baby's condition has improved since then, Wilson said, but the family's financial situation has deteriorated, as Wilson took an unpaid leave of absence from her job and her husband, Richard Keltz, works occasional odd jobs and cares for the couple's three other young children, who range in age from 2 to 5.
"And this week, they cut off our Medi-Cal," due to a clerical error that will likely be resolved, she said. But Wilson said the family's uninsured status could mean Makayla may be passed over for any appropriate livers that might become available.
One of the medical personnel who worked with the family at Oakland Kaiser said Makayla's condition is often fatal without a transplant.
"She's a beautiful little girl with a congenital problem with her liver that has caused liver failure and she's in need of a transplant," said the medical worker who asked not to be identified. "She was totally healthy until the liver shut down and she got very critical very fast."
The medical person said Makayla is too little to take part of someone else's liver, and must have a transplant from someone her size.
"It's hard to say how much time she has," the person said. "A lot of kids with this don't get a transplant in time."
The medical person said Wilson has been a wonderful advocate for her baby.
"Makayla is a really strong little girl and her mom's been at her bedside the whole time," the person said. "A baby needs their mom when they're this sick. She's an amazing mom."
Meanwhile, a family friend has developed a line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and wristbands to sell and help raise the $250,000 for the procedure, Wilson said.
Norma Manabe, a clothing designer, said she's known Wilson for many years and when she learned of Makayla's problem, offered to help with a proven method.
"We helped another little boy as a fundraiser for his chemo therapy for the past couple months, and the man has made thousands of dollars for his son," Manabe said. "She said she needed some money to defray some costs. I know they stopped her Medi-Cal, and that's another burden for her. So we made some wrist bands, sweatshirts and T-shirts and she gets about half the proceeds."
The items run from $36 to $10. For information, call (650) 355-1001 or visit email@example.com.
Meanwhile, Wilson said she's torn.
"It's frustrating," she said. "I can't even pray for a liver, since her getting one would mean the death of some other baby. It's hard to ask for that."
Contact staff writer Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at (707) 553-6824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.