By Jean A. Flanagan
Moorefield Examiner –
By all outward appearances Leai Vanmeter is a happy, energetic 2-year-old. She has an infectious smile, beautiful blonde hair and blue eyes.
But Leai is a very sick little girl. She has already had one liver transplant and could need another.
Leai was born with biliary atresia, a condition that affects her digestive system.
According to the National Institutes of Health, biliary atresia occurs when the bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not develop normally. The bile ducts help remove waste from the liver and carry salts that help the small intestine digest fat.
In babies with biliary atresia, bile flow from the liver is blocked. This can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver, which is deadly if not treated.
Leai’s parents, Heather and Lee Vanmeter of Old Fields, said her future is very unpredictable. “We live minute to minute,” Heather said.
Leai was born five weeks premature. During exploratory surgery at 10 weeks, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia.
“There are only about 300 people in the United States and only one other person in West Virginia that we know of who have this,” Heather said. “There is no cure and no cause.
“She was born in Winchester at Valley Health. They had never heard of BA and sent us to UVA (University of Virginia). A lot of hospitals don’t know about it and a lot of pediatricians won’t treat it because they’re afraid.”