Our Patients:

Orlando Bairfield


It seems everywhere that Orlando Bairfield goes, he is delighted to showcase some awesome dance moves with a huge smile. The spunky 8-year-old is just two months post-surgery after having undergone a liver transplant at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in January 2024.

“Check out these new moves,” he laughs as he dances during a follow-up exam. “I have a happy liver now!”

Orlando was just one day old when he was diagnosed during a newborn exam with jaundice, a condition that causes the skin and eyes to appear yellow. A blood test soon revealed that he had high levels of bilirubin in his blood. Bilirubin, a byproduct of red blood cells normally breaking down in the body, is usually broken down by the liver and eventually passed through the intestines and out of the body.  In Orlando’s case, however, something was causing the bilirubin to back up and remain in his liver.

“The next day, the doctors flew him from the Granite City, Ill., hospital to Cardinal Glennon,” recalls Orlando’s mother, Carolyn Scott. “Tests here also confirmed he had jaundice and the high bilirubin level.”

Jaundice often is diagnosed in premature infants and usually goes away with little treatment. Oftentimes, it is treated by placing infants under a special light (phototherapy treatment). In some cases, a blood transfusion is necessary. In Orlando’s case, however, bilirubin levels remained high and pediatric liver specialists suspected a more serious cause. Genetic testing soon revealed that Orlando had a rare liver disease, Alagille syndrome. The condition is caused by a gene mutation that can affect multiple organs in the body, including the liver, heart, eyes, and kidneys. In the liver, the condition results in an abnormally low number of bile ducts through which bilirubin can be moved out of the body.

“Among the symptoms are persistent jaundice, poor weight gain or growth, and severe itching, all of which Orlando developed,” says pediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist Ajay Jain, MD, director of Pediatric Liver Transplantation at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon. “We treated him to minimize liver injury as well as maximized his nutrition to prevent deficiencies, but Orlando developed scarring in his liver and our treatment options became more limited.”

At age two, Orlando was placed on the liver transplant waiting list. “We were worried because children with this syndrome can develop life-threatening complications and we aggressively petitioned for Orlando to move up the list for transplant,” says Dr. Jain.

Five years after he was placed on the waiting list, Carolyn Scott received a call that a potential liver for Orlando was available. The good news, however, was fleeting; the donated liver was later determined to not be viable for Orlancdo. The waiting game began again. Finally, when Orlando was 8 years old, the family received another call from the liver transplant team at Cardinal Glennon. They had a match for a new liver for Orlando.

“I was so nervous,” admits Scott. “I asked if it really was a good liver, and they told me yes. We drove to the hospital on a Monday, and Orlando had a new liver the next day.”

The change in Orlando’s condition was dramatic after the surgery. Says Scott, “He immediately looked great and the first thing he wanted to do was get back to playing. It was amazing!”

Orlando left the hospital and returned home less than two weeks after his transplant. To keep up with his classmates at his elementary school, Orlando’s teacher visited him regularly and even helped to organize a small drive-through parade at the school so that Orlando could see and wave at his friends from a car while he recovered.

Orlando officially returns to school this fall, entering the 4th grade with his friends. Since the transplant, Carolyn Scott relishes in the fact that her son is active and well. “I love everything about Cardinal Glennon,” she says. “The whole transplant team was concerned about Orlando and made sure his body was ready for the transplant when a liver was found. I can’t thank them enough.”

Orlando dances around the room while listening to his mom. “I’m feeling good!” he shouts. Laughs Carolyn, “You can see, I’m glad he’s doing so well because sitting still is just not his thing!”