Jude Ward, the 2-year-old son of Gulfport natives Nicole and Josef Ward, received a life-saving liver transplant in mid-July at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA.
Almost since the day he was born, Jude has suffered from a series of maladies, including a brain bleed due to vitamin K deficiency, as well as a diagnosis of alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, a condition that significantly raises the risk of lung and liver diseases. In Jude’s case, he had been suffering from an advanced form of cirrhosis, a disease of the liver – and his outlook was grim.
“There is no timeline of how long a liver will last when in stage 3/4 cirrhosis,” Nicole Ward wrote in a blog post in February 2017. “However, our Jude is certainly on the decline. His energy is low, appetite poor, and he sleeps a lot but not well perhaps from the itching liver disease leaves you with due to its inability to filter toxins correctly in the body. He has had thee bouts in the hospital in the last two months, trying to keep his ammonia levels down, fluid and infections away, oh and with pancreatitis. This journey seems to get worse and worse as we climb this mountain to transplant.”
The family reached the summit of their climb, however, thanks to a fundraising campaign facilitated by the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) and supporters and volunteers in Gulfport and Coral Springs, FL, where the family had been based due to Josef Ward’s Air Force career. Nearly $55,000 has been raised to date for Jude’s procedure, which was performed in Pennsylvania because Florida does not participate in the Living Liver Donor program.
Josef Ward was able to transfer to the Air Force Base in Fort Dix, NJ, which is about an hour’s drive from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the entire family, including Nicole and Josiah, Jude’s elder brother, now reside there.
“The good news is 12 days post-transplant, he went home,” wrote Jen Dorosh, a spokesperson for the Ward family, in an email to the Gabber. “Jude received his liver from a deceased 3-year-old donor so Jude was able to receive the full liver. He had a few hiccups post-op but they adjusted medications and he appears to be doing fantastic.”
The cost of a liver transplant operation, though, can exceed $500,000, so donations are still being accepted to help with the family’s medical expenses. To donate, visit cotaforjudew.com.
Also, additional local fundraising events have been scheduled, Dorosh said. On August 19, Red Tiki Bar in St. Petersburg will host a raffle, auction and day of fun that will benefit the COTA campaign for Jude. And on October 20, Ferg’s sports bar in St. Petersburg will host a cornhole tournament with raffle and auction to support the cause.
Organizers are still looking for sponsors and donations of prizes for these events. If anyone would like to help, please contact Dorosh at 727-667-9539 or TeamJudeWard@gmail.com.