(10-14-20) October is usually seen as Breast Cancer Awareness month. But for this local family, Liver Awareness Month is at the forefront, a month touted by the American Liver Foundation to raise public awareness of the importance of liver health. More than 30 million Americans suffer with some form of liver disease. This Mercer County family is waiting for the call for their son’s second chance at life.

Colten Mustard (12) is listed for a Liver Transplant. His parents, Peter and Amber Mustard of Celina, delivered their first of three children in 2008 and had a rather uncomplicated birth and pregnancy. During their son’s first wellness screening their pediatrician noticed his slightly jaundiced skin and a heal stick was immediately ordered. After that, blood draws came every few days to monitor his liver bilirubin levels. As Colten’s lab levels kept increasing, his stool turned pale as well. He was referred to Nationwide Children’s Hospital GI Clinic for further testing.

Amber and Pete were told their son had a life-threatening disease called Biliary Atresia (BA), which is a rare liver disease impacting one in every 10,000 to 15,000 children. Children are born with this disease and doctors do not know, as of yet, what causes it to occur. After more ultrasounds and a biopsy, Colten underwent the Kasai procedure, which is sometimes a ‘surgical fix’ for BA babies and a way to postpone a liver transplant. A few weeks later, he had a second surgery to correct a twisted bowel.

Colten’s surgery was considered a success. He only had a few inpatient hospital stays and annual check-ups with his liver team during his childhood. However, like in most cases, even when surgery is successful, patients will suffer gradual damage to the liver. Colten was diagnosed with hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS) after a week-long hospital stay in May due to cholangitis. HPS affects the lungs of people with advanced liver disease. In September, Colten met with his Liver Team at Nationwide Children’s for a 2-day transplant evaluation. His team of doctors decided Colten should officially be listed on the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) Active Liver Transplant List.

A liver transplant social worker suggested community fundraising with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA). As the Mustard Family waits for ‘the call’ for a perfect liver, their family members teamed with COTA for Colten to raise funds for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses. COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers consisting of family and friends selected by the Mustard family.

Amber stated –

“We are happy to be working together with COTA. They allowed us to choose some of our family members to head the fundraising, so it has really helped in releasing that worry because it’s people we know and trust. The funds will be available for a lifetime and Colten will have a long journey ahead even after transplant.”

Colten’s Aunt, Alyssa Rutter, is organizing fundraising events such as bake sales, t-shirt sales and a videogame tourney. For more information, to make a donation, or to follow Colten’s transplant journey visit www.COTAforColten.com or the CaringforColten Facebook page. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and COTA funds are available for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses