CUBA CITY—One year after facing death from an unknown cause, Liam Young, a 3-year-old from Louisburg, has rebounded and continues to heal a little more every day.
“He’s a normal 3-year-old, minus some fingers and toes,” Chris Young, Liam’s father, said.
The rollercoaster ride of hospital visits and tough decisions for their toddler began on Oct. 24 last year. Chris and Angela Young took their middle child, Liam, to the emergency room Oct. 24, 2015, because he didn’t seem to be recovering from the flu. Liam was flown to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City because it appeared that his liver and kidneys had shut down.
Upon arrival at PICU, Liam had cardiac arrest, was successfully resuscitated and was put into a medically induced coma. He received a blood transfusion, dialysis, antibiotics and plasmapheresis (separation of blood and platelets).
Liam had several complications, including swelling from the build-up of fluids when his kidneys weren’t working, causing blisters all over his body. He also had blood clots in his fingers and toes, a protective measure of the body to ensure blood flow to the main organs, causing the tissue of his fingers and toes to discolor and die. Liam’s fingers and toes had to be removed as a result.
By Christmas last year, Liam was released from the hospital for one week to be with his family. He was back at the hospital for surgery on Dec. 28. He was officially released from the hospital on Jan. 13 and has been home ever since.
Liam continues to have surgery approximately once a month for skin grafting to replace damaged tissue.
Chris Young said Iowa City Hospital has recommended amputation of Liam’s legs at the knee. Currently, Liam has a portion of each foot missing and, with the help of supportive shoes, he is able to walk and run. The Youngs sought a second opinion at the Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis, Minn. They recommended holding off on amputation to see how Liam adapts as he grows.
“If they can get the wound to close up on his left foot, then they’ll be less likely to amputate,” Chris Young said. “He has osteomyelitis, a bone infection, in his left foot and they’re worried if that comes back, it’ll do more damage than what has already been done.”
He will have a CT scan of his foot later this month to determine how bad the damage was from the infection.
“Depending on that, they could do a procedure for a skin flap to make sure the bone gets closed up as soon as possible,” Angela Young said. “If there is too much damage to the bone, a flap would be less likely and they would lean more toward amputation. The way the foot is healing, we’re pretty hopeful that there wasn’t too much damage. It’s starting to close up with just the switch of dressings we are using.”
Chris Young said Liam taught himself how to walk again. He doesn’t use any prosthetics at this time.
“We’re careful about what type of boots or shoes we buy him so he has a little more support,” Chris Young said.
Liam loves going for walks.
“He hasn’t taken any steps back, so that’s a good thing,” Chris Young said. “We still don’t have word on what all caused it.”
Liam will have a genetic study to help determine what led to the health issues.
Brigham Young University of Boston, Mass., contacted Liam’s doctors at Iowa City after seeing the story about Liam. The doctors asked if the Young family wanted to participate in the study and they have been in contact with the college since December.
“Anything to get an answer about what started this,” Chris Young said. “We also want to know if we need to worry about it coming back.”
The study compares the DNA from Chris, Angela and Liam to determine if there is anything missing that would cause him to not fight off certain infections like he should be able to.
“It’s been a busy year,” Chris Young said. “Everyone made it easier for us. The support has helped a lot.”
The family posted Liam’s news to a Facebook page called Updates for Liam Young.
“Reviewing the posts from a year ago brings back a lot of emotions,” Angela Young said.
When visiting the hospital, Liam visits his nurses from his stay last year.
“Shortly after he started walking, he walked up to the PICU,” Chris Young said. “All of the nurses stood up and started crying.”
“The nurses had told us that it had been terrible with everybody being sick,” Angela Young said. “They said it was nice to see Liam to remind them why they do it, to save someone’s life.”
Liam has a little better understanding of his situation. He used to say a shark bit his fingers off. Now when you ask him, he says, “Doctors cut them off because they were bad.”
Having Liam in school has helped him overcome hiding his hands. He has been enrolled in the 3-year-old special needs program at Southwestern School. His brother, Noah, is a student at the Southwestern Elementary School. At school Liam is determined to use the same tools as the other students instead of the adaptable ones.
“I like my teacher,” Liam said.
He likes to play at school and has lots of friends to play with.
“He can do most things that normal kids can do, even without having us right there,” Chris Young said.
“Except buttoning his pants,” Angela Young added. “He’s still trying to figure that out.”
He’s able to pick items up and dress himself.
“He finds a way to make it work,” Angela Young said.
“He’s a problem solver,” Chris Young added.
Since Liam was discharged in January, there have been approximately one surgery a month.
“Going through it, it was stressful and overwhelming,” Chris Yong said.
“Every one keeps asking how we do it, but you are put in the situation and you just have to do it,” Angela Young said.
“You really don’t have another choice.”
“His plastic surgeon doctors have been talking about growing his fingers back,” Chris Young said.
Liam is missing the top portion of his fingers. The bottom portions are there, but are fused together. The doctors could cut fingers by reducing the size of his palm.
One highlight of the year was being a Kid Captain for the Iowa Hawkeyes football game on Sept. 24. Liam was able to visit the stadium and the players’ locker rooms. He met the players and coaches, too.