Pediatric liver transplant

Amareah thriving after liver transplant

Little girl smiling and playing with toy mounted to the wall.

When Shontrell Linebarger first received a call asking her to provide a foster home for a newborn who was sick with liver disease, she didn’t balk at the idea of caring for a medically fragile child.

She didn’t hesitate because she already had other biological and foster children at home. She simply said, “Yes.” And that willingness to take a chance on a child who needed someone to love her led Shontrell to one of the most important relationships in her life. “The moment I got her, I instantly fell in love with her,” said Shontrell.

When Shontrell began caring for the baby, Amareah, she had been waiting in the hospital for a foster family to take her home. At that time, she was deeply jaundiced after having undergone a Kasai operation for biliary atresia. Biliary atresia is a progressive disease in which the bile ducts in and outside of the liver are closed off and bile cannot flow from the liver into the intestinal tract. The Kasai operation is performed to bypass the closed off bile duct and to join the intestine directly to the liver. Because of ongoing progression of her liver disease, Amareah then needed to have a liver transplant.

Amareah was removed from her biological mother’s care, and the first foster family that took her in couldn’t care for her anymore. A social services worker called Shontrell, who lives in Freeport, Illinois, and has been a foster mom for 10 years.

Amareah began living with Shontrell July 20, 2022, and she received a lifesaving liver transplant on Feb. 24, 2023, at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. Between those two dates, the baby spent months at a time in the hospital—and Shontrell never left her side. “I instantly started nurturing her the moment I saw her,” said Shontrell. “It was like I was a new mother.”

Shontrell’s 21-year-old biological daughter (she also has two other biological children) stepped in to help care for her other two foster children while she stayed with Amareah at the hospital. “We made it work,” said Shontrell. “I can’t even tell you how it happened.”

Now that she has a new liver, Amareah is thriving. Proud mama Shontrell (she officially adopted Amareah Jan. 3, 2024) loves to talk about her daughter’s big personality—and how, despite all her challenges, she’s keeping up with her growth milestones. At daycare, Amareah’s teachers tell her mom that she’s a little teacher who likes to keep all her classmates in line.

“She wakes up in the morning with a smile on her face and says, ‘Good morning!’” said Shontrell. “And whenever she sees me, she says, ‘Mommy, how was your day?’ She has such a big future ahead of her.”