Natalie Rose Hodgson appears to be a normal four-year-old. This blonde-haired girl has a bundle of energy, an infectious smile and knows how to have fun. She enjoys playing with her stuffed animals, roughing up her three-year old brother Cameron, riding her bicycle, admiring one-year-old brother Warren and playing soccer at Mt. Pleasant Christian Church, although she becomes winded quickly.
Last Halloween, Natalie Rose enjoyed trickor-treating with her brothers who dressed as Batman and Superman. Life is somewhat normal for Natalie Rose with one exception – she has a liver condition that is known as biliary atresia (blocked bile ducts inside the liver that also causes scarring). Since her birth, she has had as many visits to doctors and the hospital as she has to the playground. She is in line for a liver transplant at Riley Hospital for Children/Indiana University Health.
A few weeks ago, attending physicians found a match but the condition of the potential donor’s liver was unsuitable for little Natalie Rose. “We’re taking it a day at a time – that’s all we know what to do,” mom Christy Hodgson said. “There have been so many ups and downs. We know nothing happens right away, so we pray a lot.”
Natalie Rose also experiences fatigue frequently because of breathing difficulties associated with hepatopulmonary syndrome, a condition related to her liver ailment. Within days of her birth, the Hodgson’s first baby experienced a two-pound weight loss, skin discoloration and, at the age of 4, a definite lack of energy. A biopsy revealed that she was suffering from biliary atresia. She was placed on the waiting list in June for a liver transplant.
“We were always hopeful after she was born, but we were getting bad news after bad news,” Christy recalled. “We stayed optimistic, but I have to admit, we were taken aback when we were told of the results (biopsy). Our days have been filled with a lot of ‘what ifs.’ You have to have faith, and we have family and friends who are pulling for Natalie Rose.”
However, medical expenses continue to rise for Natalie Rose’s parents, Brett and Christy Hodgson. Those expenses could skyrocket to more than $300,000 with a liver transplant, a figure that doesn’t include post-operation costs and long-term medications. The Hodgson’s have some health insurance but not nearly enough to cover all costs. To help, a family relative upon advice from Riley contacted the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) and launched a fund-raising site where donations can be made online.
“They (COTA) are a powerhouse,” Christy said. “They have put us in contact with other ‘liver’ families. We are not alone by any means.”
Christy also said she is looking forward to meeting the mother of the potential donor whose kidney was not compatible for Natalie Rose. Brett, Center Grove High School Class of 2000, works as a freight broker. They also have a black Labrador named Stella, who adores the couple’s three children. The family lives near Mt. Pleasant Christian Church where they attend.
Meanwhile, the Hodgson’s are looking forward to seeing their only daughter receiving a new liver and life afterward. Natalie Rose still will have numerous doctor visits and several medications. Obviously, a new liver means a healthier life.
Christy admits that her eyes have been opened at Riley to many children who are fighting various ailments with courage. She and her husband have met many parents there.
“When this is all over, I would like to be part of a group that can make a difference in these kids’ lives and support other parents,” Christy said. Meanwhile, Natalie Rose continues to be rough with Cameron while hugging Warren and playing with Stella. And her parents continue to pray.