Feature Stories, Newspaper Writing

Faith, Overwhelming Support Gives Family Hope

mess_logoPublished September 2003 in The Messenger,
The Newspaper of the Belleville Catholic Diocese

He plays with his brothers – Jack and Joey – attends first grade, sits in the pew next to his parents each Sunday and goes about life as most –year olds do, but J.D. Maher is not your average –year old child.

His name is on numerous prayer lists, including several in diocese. His grandmother, Althea, who lives in Arkansas, sends mailings to national prayer groups to pray for her grandson who is in desperate need of a liver transplant.

“We have people who call daily and say ‘You’re in our prayers, we are thinking about you.’ It’s like a community,” Jenny Maher said.

J.D., the son of Jim and Jenny Maher of Smithton, was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a chronic liver disease, when he was three weeks old. Though doctors attempted to remove bile from his liver, they were unsuccessful and determined a transplant was the only option for the infant.

In January of 1997, Jim Maher donated a portion of his liver to save his son’s life. Six years later, J.D.’s liver has begun to fail again and he is in need of another transplant.

“I couldn’t imagine not having my faith in this situation,” Jim Maher said.

Father Ken York, pastor at St. John the Baptist in Smithon, agreed. “This has got to be a parent’s worst nightmare. As a parish, we will do whatever we can to help.”

According to his parents, J.D. is hospitalized and treated approximately every six weeks. “He (J.D.) is familiar with what is going on,” Jenny Maher said. “We try not to dwell on it, because it is hard for him, especially as he gets older.”

Though the Mahers are hopeful that a liver for J.D. will be found soon; they are not sitting back waiting; they are taking action now.

J.D.’s parents, with the help of the American Red Cross and St. John’s Parish in Smithton, have organized numerous blood drives in the past few months. Placing notices in church bulletins, promoting through the American Red Cross and recruiting the help of Jim’s co-workers at Merrill Lynch, the Mahers will once again ask donors to come forward Oct. 12.

“The first transplant took nearly 200 pints of blood,” Jim Maher said. “We want to be prepared.”

The blood drive will be held from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 12 at St. John’s Munier Center in Smithton. All donations that prove to be a viable match for J.D. will be put on reserve and used during the transplant.

“The support of our family, friends and the community has been overwhelming,” Jim Maher said. “People who have heard about J.D.’s situation from a friend of a friend, come in, roll up their sleeve and give of themselves.”

Out of 134 blood donors at three drives, only 17 proved to be direct matches for J.D. According to Maher, blood types are familial, so if one family member is a positive blood match, the entire family will likely be good candidates.

“It’s a matter of picking up the phone and making the contact,” Jim Maher said.

“We’ve asked families to come out together to donate.”

J.D., appreciative of the support, personally thanked each donor at a special blood drive in May. “He knows these people are here to help him,” Jenny Maher said.

– Shannon Philpott


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