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At a particularly low period in his infant son Luka’s health struggles, Ryan Ogrizovich posted a scrap of paper on Luka’s door at American Family Children’s Hospital.
The paper asked everyone who entered the room to say something positive to Luka before leaving. One nurse even performed a short cheer routine for him. “It got easier and easier,” says Ryan. “I think that’s the power of many people coming together and sending positive energy to one person.
Ryan and his wife, Malory, clung to every bit of positivity they could because at times, their situation seemed dire. Luka suffered from propionic acidemia, a rare metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to process certain parts of proteins and fats. During Luka’s first year of life, the family spent half their time at the hospital, praying for a solution. “So many of our firsts happened at that hospital,” says Malory. “It will forever be our home.”
When Luka was about 9 months old, doctors told his parents his best chance for survival was a liver transplant. Because of his size, they had to wait until he was bigger to place him on the wait list for a liver from a deceased donor, and shortly after his first birthday, he received the gift of life.
After his parents took him home from the hospital, Malory distinctly remembers a moment when the refrigerator motor kicked in and Luka turned his head. That seemingly small motion meant everything to her: Luka had never noticed that particular sound before. “It was like he had been living in a fog before that,” she says. “The transplant was life-changing and life-saving for Luka.”
Now, Luka is an 11-year-old who is a beacon of love and light. His family moved to Barneveld, Wisconsin, and every new person from his school who meets his parents is quick to tell them how much joy Luka brings whenever he’s around. He still suffers from propionic acidemia, which means his parents have to watch his diet carefully to prevent further issues. But his new liver has stabilized his health, so he’s free to ride around on his recumbent tricycle and play outside.
To this day, American Family Children’s Hospital is a place of comfort and familiarity to the Ogrizovich family. Luka’s favorite color is red because he loves Bucky, the University of Wisconsin-Madison mascot whose image is visible throughout the hospital. “Whenever he’s sick and we go to the hospital, I can feel myself relax when the elevator doors open on the 5th floor,” says Malory. “We have so many beautiful memories there amidst the scary ones. Luka is thriving in so many ways, and it’s because of the care we received here.”