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Airman gives of himself to save son

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
An Airman from Hurlburt Field, Fla., donated a portion of his liver to help save the life of a two-year-old boy.

Senior Airman Mario Webb, a ground radio maintainer from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, acted as a living donor to give his son, Genghis, a liver transplant in April.

Airman Webb and Genghis are scheduled to be released in early August to go home after a more than three-month stay in the Ronald McDonald House here while they recuperated from their surgeries.

In April, Genghis was diagnosed with Tyrosinemia, a genetic, metabolic disorder that affects the liver and prevents the body from properly breaking down proteins. If left untreated, it can lead to developmental delays, cancer or death. He was also diagnosed with cirrhosis, and cancerous cells were found in his liver.

During his 18-month check up, Genghis' doctor discovered that Genghis was only in the 30th percentile for growth in his age group. He sent the Webbs to a civilian gastrointestinal specialist in Pensacola, Fla., who identified the problem in Genghis' liver.

"At first, Dr. Davis (the specialist in Pensacola) thought it was rickets," said Julie Webb, Genghis' mother. "I was really worried."

From there, he was referred to Yale-New Haven Medical Center. After several tests, doctors confirmed Genghis needed a liver transplant right away.

Air Force and Tricare officials ensured the Webb family, including wife Julie and baby sister Zyla, had transportation to Connecticut and lodging accommodations once they arrived for Genghis' appointment.

"Each of the three regional contractors maintains a network of civilian healthcare providers," said Austin Camacho, the chief of public affairs for the Tricare Management Activity. "If the needed care is not available in (the) area, the doctor may refer the beneficiary to an appropriate provider outside the area. If an appropriate provider can't be found within the network, the regional contractor will refer the beneficiary to another Tricare authorized provider.

"When a family member is referred for medically-necessary, non-emergent specialty care at a location more than 100 miles (one way) from the primary care manager, they may be eligible to have 'reasonable travel expenses' reimbursed by Tricare," he said. "Reasonable travel expenses are the actual costs incurred while traveling, including meals, gas, tolls, parking and tickets for public transportation."

After doctors identified that Genghis needed a transplant, he was added to the donor list immediately.

According to, due to a continuous shortage of donor livers and the high incidence of liver disease, the waiting time is increasing every year. Hundreds of people die each year while waiting for a cadaveric liver to be offered.

In 2003, there were 5,670 liver transplants performed. During that time period, 1,705 people died while waiting for a transplant.

With odds like that, the Webbs decided to go with the alternative -- a living donor.

Dr. Sukru Emre, the chief of transplantation and immunology for the Yale University School of Medicine Department of Surgery and the doctor who performed the transplant, suggested the Webbs look into the living donor process.

A few days after all the necessary screenings and tests were completed, Airman Webb was notified he was a match for Genghis, and his son would be getting his much needed transplant.

"It was probably about two weeks between the time they said he needed an organ transplant to the time we it done," Airman Webb said. "It was a real quick turnaround."

Since the operation, both father and son have recuperated well are expecting to be released in the beginning of August to go back to their home in Florida.

"He is doing extremely well," Airman Webb said about Genghis' progression.

Doctors expect Genghis to make a full recovery and live a normal healthy life.