Sask. family hoping for organ transplant that will give 11-year-old son a chance at normal life

For Maymont’s Nate Starycki, the race is on for a transplant that might give him a chance to live life like any other 11-year-old.

Nate needs an intestinal and liver transplant, according to his mother Jennifer Starycki. There are complicating factors, like needing the right blood type and size.

“He’s very excited to try to get one because he just wants a tummy that doesn’t hurt every day,” Jennifer said.

She said her son wakes up and faces every day as though he’s suffering with a flu.

“It’s hard to grasp that there could be a healthy life ahead ahead for him. It’s encouraging to think about,” she said.

The explosion of interest in organ donation and events like Green Shirt Day in the past year have been “amazing,” Jennifer said, and have helped the Staryckis educate people about organ donation and clear up misconceptions.

“It can only improve and it can only make a better difference for us, I think,” she said.

Sick from birth

Nate was born with gastroschisis, a defect with which the abdominal wall does not close properly, causing his intestines to grow outside of his body.

“Ever since then, he’s kind of been the worst case scenario, with complications of what he was born with,” said Starycki, who lives in Maymont, located about 90 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. 

“He can eat orally but he cannot absorb enough nutrition to survive and grow.”

Nate has spent much of his life in and out of hospital, with the family living with the spectre of his illness and intestinal failure.

His mother says Nate (right) and his two siblings have lived with him being sick throughout his childhood. (Hope for Nate/Facebook)

Over time, Nate has faced multiple infections from the lines through which he gets his IV fluids, according to his mother. Last year, doctors decided to see if he could eat orally and survive.  

“By July of last summer he was skin and bones. He just he couldn’t handle it. He got very, very sick and it was like watching him starve to death.”

Doctors in three provinces have told the family an organ transplant would be their choice going forward.

Nate is pictured here with his grandparents, sporting shirts his family had made to raise awareness about organ donation. The family has donated sales of the apparel to the Ronald McDonald House. (Hope for Nate/Facebook)

The size of a six-year-old

Nate has kept up with life as well as he can: playing with his friends, taking part in non-contact sports and learning to downhill ski.

But his physical size is comparable to a six-year-old, his mother said.  

“He’s more aware that’s looking different, and he wants to grow with all his friends.”

You don’t want to bask in joy of somebody else’s tragedy — it’s a real mind game.– Mother Jennifer Starycki  on waiting for organ transplant

Starycki said it’s hard to think of someone else’s loss being the reason her son will survive.

“You don’t want to bask in joy of somebody else’s tragedy— it’s a real mind game,” she said.

The transplant teams have been supportive and have encouraged the family to try not to look at the potential transplant as benefiting from someone else’s tragedy, as that tragedy would happen regardless.

“But what you can be given is the gift of life,” she said.

Starycki said they’ll continue to raise awareness about the gift of organ donation until it happens for Nate.

“We’ll just keep on fighting and keep on trying to do everything we possibly can to better him and his life.”