MONROE — This summer Jacob Colyn, 14, was not enjoying the sun, swimming or playing his favorite computer games. He was fighting for his life.
Jacob was admitted Aug. 9 to Seattle Children’s Hospital with acute liver failure. He was quickly moved to the top of the recipients list and two weeks ago received a liver transplant.
To help the family cover the medical costs, the communities of Monroe and Gold Bar have come together to organize a garage sale this Labor Day weekend.
Jacob was going to attend eighth grade at Parkplace Middle School in Monroe, said Sallye Strait, his aunt. Now, while he recovers, he will probably take online classes instead.
This past weekend Jacob was moved from the intensive care unit to a private room at the hospital.
Jacob is described by his aunt as a young man starting to find his humor and interact more with others. He also is very close to his 4-year-old brother.
“He is always playing with him,” Strait said.
Acute liver failure is an uncommon condition that affects the liver’s ability to detoxify the blood and it can affect a patient’s mental status, said Dr. Andre Dick, attending transplant surgeon from Children’s Hospital.
At the start of summer, Jacob was eager to attend the Seattle YMCA’s Camp Colman this month.
One day in early August he was hiking with his family when he got tired, and told his parents he had a bad headache and stomachache, Strait said.
An initial diagnosis of hepatitis A was later found incorrect.
The cause of Jacob’s liver failure has not been determined and further tests on the organ will be conducted so doctors can see if they can find the cause. Causes for acute liver failure, requiring a transplant, are unknown in many cases. Identifiable causes can vary from viral infections to taking too much Tylenol.
“Prior to liver transplant, the mortality rate was from 80 to 90 percent,” Dick said. Today, with liver transplants, patients have a 60 to 80 percent chance of survival, he said.
Jacob underwent transplant surgery Aug 19 that lasted more than 12 hours.
Before this, Jacob had no medical issues and had never stepped into a hospital, his aunt said.
“He never had the flu,” Strait said.
Jacob loves to play soccer, computer games and his saxophone, Strait said. He especially likes to swim. “He enjoys being in the water,” she said.
Jacob has a talent with machines, so the family thinks he might become a computer programmer when he grows up.
“We always asked him how to program our cell phones. He’ll just push some buttons and make them work,” Strait said.
Jacob seemed to be doing well last week, chatting with his family, Strait said. He’s also coming to realize that his life will be different.
The family has insurance, but Strait says that the family still needs to come up with an insurance co-payment. She does not know how much it is, but she believes it will be expensive. The family also will also need to pay for anti-rejection medicine Jacob will have to take from now on.
“It’s not over, it just changes the game,” Strait said.
This weekend’s garage sale is being organized by Cheryl Miller, of Gold Bar, a friend of the family for more than 20 years. The sale will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday in a field in front of her residence at 1705 Amanda Ave.
Miller said she has received items for the sale from donations that have come from friends, acquaintances and even strangers. She said people can donate goods before the garage sale by bringing them to her house or dropping them off at Chain Lake Storage in Monroe.
“I am so touched by the request for volunteers to help with the sale,” Miller said. “People who don’t even know Jacob and his family are coming forward to lend a hand.”
An account also has been set up in the name of Jacob Colyn at the Coastal Community Bank.
Strait thinks this experience will shape Jacob’s future and may put him on a path in medicine.
“He could grow and write a program to manage transplants better,” she said.
Alejandro Dominguez: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3422.
Help for Jacob
A benefit garage sale for Jacob Colyn is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday at 1705 Amanda Ave., in Gold Bar. For more information, call Cheryl Miller at 425-328-7910.
Donations can be taken to: Coastal Community Banks: Silver Lake Everett Branch, 10520 19th Avenue SE, Everett, WA 98208; Everett Downtown Branch, 2817 Colby Avenue, Everett, WA 98201; Monroe Branch, 19351 U.S. 2, Monroe, WA 98272; Sultan Branch, 425 Main Street, Sultan, WA 98294.