When Nathan Shelton was six years old, his mother Lora knew something was wrong with his health, because while most people didn’t notice, it was becoming more and more difficult for Nathan to keep up with his soccer team. He was constantly feeling tired. His mother took him to the doctor.
Liver function tests showed Nathan had abnormally high liver enyme levels. Immediately referred to a gastroenterologist, he was tested and diagnosed with Alpha-1.
When the family learned that Alpha-1 is a genetic condition, Nathan’s father Stephen and the rest of the family in Trussville, Alabama were tested as a precaution. As it turned out, two of Nathan’s brothers were also ZZ Alphas, but fortunately, they are healthy.
“We were not familiar with Alpha-1 at all and had to educate ourselves on the condition and what it would mean for Nathan, our other sons, and our family,” said Shelton.
In November 2007, the Shelton family was told Nathan would need to be placed on a liver transplant list. “It was difficult to see Nathan become sicker, and it was hard not knowing how long he might wait,” said Shelton.
But the wait was short.
On Christmas Day, the Sheltons received a call saying Nathan would be able to have his transplant.
After the complicated procedure, Nathan remained in the hospital for nine days recovering. It wasn’t until a year of regular check-ups that Nathan began to show a significant improvement. He was finally going strong and energetic again. “He is living a completely normal 11-year-old life!” says his mother. “We are very grateful to the organ donor and his family, who gave Nathan the gift of life.”
January 2009 marked Nathan’s last hospitalization. He still has follow ups due to his transplant, but he is back to playing soccer. He takes a daily immune suppressant, which has helped in keeping his perfect attendance at school.
To those in similar situations, Lora Shelton suggests they should connect with the Alpha-1 community. ”Learn as much as you can about the condition. Find an Alpha-1 support group in your area. Knowledge really is power.”