A Toddler’s Triumph: Nico’s Fighting Spirit on the Transplant Journey

Young Nico's fighting spirit and his battle with transplantation.

Annette, Nico and Cristina at Gift of Life Howie’s House

Four-year-old Nicholas, affectionately known as Nico, has been a fighter from day one. At just eight weeks old, he was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a rare liver disease causing severe liver damage and scarring in infants.

Cristina, Nico’s mother, and Annette, his grandmother, are from Puerto Rico and were informed that the local hospital couldn’t treat Nico’s condition. They embarked on a long journey to Philadelphia to seek the best care.

Discovering the House didn’t happen immediately for the family. Initially staying with relatives in Pittsburgh, they commuted back and forth for all of Nico’s appointments.

After months of waiting, Nico received his life-saving liver transplant at just one year old. It was only after his transplant that Crista and Anette came to stay at the House and said they instantly felt at home.

The House provided Nico and his family a place to heal, grow, and connect with other families with similar journeys.

“I was very paranoid, anxious, and depressed, but when we came here and saw all the people who are going through the same process that we are, I was able to feel calmer and more relaxed. We know that we are not alone.”


Nico’s mother

Following his discharge from the hopsital, the House lit the way for Nico to experience many important firsts. Just two weeks after his transplant, Nico reminded his family of his fighting spirit and took his first steps in the playroom.

“He loves the playroom downstairs, that’s where he learned to walk. And we have not stopped him since.”


Nico’s mother

Nico and his outgoing personality can often be heard running around the House, charming both guests and staff. “He made a lot of friends here,” Cristina says.

For Nico’s family, the House alleviated many of the stresses tied to the transplant journey. From figuring out what to eat for dinner to the added financial pressures, the House allowed them to focus solely on Nico’s recovery.

“Having the opportunity to improve your quality of life and stay relaxed is so important, and here you only have to worry about your recovery.”


Nico’s Grandmother

Both Cristina and Annette expressed their gratitude for the people who contribute financially to support the House.

“When people donate, it makes the journey easier and more comfortable. They don’t know but they are changing lives here with donations because there are people here that depend on that support.”


Above all, Cristina and Annette are most grateful for Nico’s organ donor for giving him the gift of life, and to all the organ donor heroes that make the miracle of transplant possible.

By making a gift today, you are helping to “Light the Way Home” for the many families staying at the House this holiday season. Every donation, regardless of its size, makes a significant difference in these families’ lives, offering them hope and a path forward during their darkest hours.

Your support will help bridge the gap between our low nightly fee of $40 and the actual cost to provide our services, which is $175 a night. It will also help keep the promise of never turning away a family who cannot afford the nightly fee.

For those who donate $250 or more, your name will be placed on a beautifully crafted paper house, illuminated as a symbol of your support. They will be displayed around Gift of Life Howie’s House and serve as a reminder to our guests that there are compassionate individuals helping to ease their journey and “Light the Way Home”

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