Macey O’Kelley, a fifth-grader at Melrose Elementary, leads her school as a healthy example despite having once faced a life-threatening liver condition.As a baby, she suffered from biliary atresia, a condition that causes organ failure due to the lack of bile duct openings in the liver.
O’Kelley underwent a liver transplant and has since shifted her attention to the well-being of her classmates.The 10-year-old has become an ambassador with the Greater Los Angeles division of the American Liver Foundation.
“We’re seeing such a spike in the numbers of fatty liver disease being diagnosed in children and it goes with the rising obesity rates in this country,” Dana Waldrop, of the American Liver Foundation, said.
Her family teamed up with the school’s parent-teacher organization to put together a student jog-a-thon and fitness expo.
“We just wanted the kids to be exposed to different forms of exercise so they could pursue a lifestyle that was healthy,” parent Simone James said.
Being overweight and having fatty liver disease has been linked to cirrhosis and liver cancer.”I think a lot of people don’t even know where their liver is” Waldrop said. “If you ask people, ‘Where’s your liver?’ they don’t know. It’s our third largest organ, but people don’t really understand how important it is to the body.”
O’Kelley is grateful that she has been able to get the chance to live a long and healthy life. For her family, her life has been a victory.
“We’re so grateful to reach this day and to have her be out here, able to run,” her father, Brian O’Kelley, said. “It’s such a privilege, it’s just great.”
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