Christmas Miracle: Five-Month-Old Daniel McCabe Gets Liver Transplant Match In 40 Minutes

It was the ultimate Christmas miracle for little Daniel McCabe, a 5-month-old boy who was matched for a liver transplant just 40 minutes after he was listed for one, and successfully underwent the transplant the day after.

According to NBC Chicago, Daniel suffers from biliary atresia, a rare liver illness that required him to receive a lifesaving transplant. The Canadian Liver Foundation’s official website describes the condition as affecting about one out of every 10,000 to 20,000 infants, and one where the bile duct that transports bile from the liver to the intestine gets damaged. This prevents the bile from traveling to the intestine, with outside ducts getting affected in the early stages and inside ducts also getting damaged in the latter stages. In the end, this could endanger a baby’s life through harmful bile buildup in the liver.


Daniel McCabe was listed for a liver transplant at 10:15 a.m. on December 13, and at that point, his family was already wishing for a Christmas miracle for their baby boy. His mother, Melody McCabe, told NBC Chicago that she “expected to be waiting a while” for Daniel to be matched with a donor. But all it took was exactly 40 minutes for a liver to come up as available on the deceased donor registry, and get confirmed as a match.

The transplant took place on Wednesday, December 14, at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and as NBC Chicago reported, Daniel opened his eyes eight days later, with just three days remaining until Christmas.

Dr. Riccardo Superina performed the operation on Daniel McCabe, and explained in a press release from the Lurie Children’s Hospital the challenges he faced ahead of the operation. He added that the donor’s liver was split into two, allowing another patient to benefit from a separate liver transplant.

“Daniel is one of the smallest patients we’ve ever transplanted – probably in the 99th percentile. He weighed barely 4 kilograms, and half of that weight was fluids. He was very weak from his disease and never had a normal liver.”

Doctors at Lurie Children’s Hospital described the 40-minute wait time as being “extremely rare,” and a case of excellent timing. Citing data from the United Network of Organ Sharing, the hospital said that only 43 people, Daniel McCabe included, waited 40 minutes or less to get matched with a donor. About 6,000 people receive liver transplants per year, but there are over 14,000 people still waiting for one, with average wait times at 149 days for adults and 86 days for children.

Regardless of the time it takes for people to be matched for an organ transplant, it could often take months, or even years, for a donor to be found. UNOS statistics also show an average of 22 people each day dying while on an organ transplant wait list.


In a prepared statement quoted by ABC News, Lurie Children’s Hospital organ procurement specialist Justin Boese commented on the Christmas miracle, and how remarkably quick it took for Daniel McCabe to get matched.

“This is one of the most incredible things that has happened in the five years that I’ve been here. The shortest wait time I have seen here was at least 12 hours, so 40 minutes is very unusual.”

According to ABC News, Daniel is now “doing well” after the liver transplant, and is currently recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit. Melody McCabe said that it may be a few more days before Daniel is released, but he’s looking a lot better than he did prior to the surgery.

“Even hours after surgery, he still looked a lot better and his color — it was the first time I had seen him not yellow.”

All in all, the McCabes, who reside in Waukesha, Wisconsin, believe that Daniel’s quick and successful liver transplant was a true Christmas miracle, and, in the words of Daniel’s father Joseph, a “Christmas we’ll never forget.”

[Featured Image by Africa Studios/Shutterstock]