When 12-year-old Connor Ellison was diagnosed with congenital hepatic fibrosis, a liver disease that causes internal bleeding, his hopes of playing football that school year were put on hold. Connor was referred to Dr. Carlos Esquivel for a splenorenal shunt. With his dream of playing football postponed, the young man COMMITTED himself to his other dream—that of becoming the youngest bicyclist in history to cross the finish line in the 3,100 mile Race Across America. He was not going to be deterred by his treatment.
Connor’s family was elated when the procedure was a success, shunting blood away from the scarred liver and lowering the pressure in his veins. But Connor had another priority—getting back into the cycling training he had begun before his operation. Esquivel, Chief of the Division of Transplantation at SHC, was so moved by the boy’s determination that he decided to ride in the race with himn. “He was so distraught when I told him he needed surgery. I promised once he had recovered he would be able to train again and that I would train with him. I said, ‘we’ll do the race together.’”
The 3,000-mile race, which began in Oceanside, California, and ended in Annapolis, Maryland, took six days. Though it was a grueling experience—as Esquivel said, he had participated in 100-mile rides but nothing like the Race Across America—it was a moving one, too. “I am so proud of Connor. We raised close to $100,000 for Team Donate Life, which is a nonprofit organization that promotes organ transplants. And Connor achieved his goal of becoming the youngest cyclist to complete the race.”
Hopefully, Connor will never need a liver transplant. But for now, the sixth grader just wanted to do something to increase awareness in general.
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