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Virginia teen receives long-awaited liver transplant

"The surgeon said, 'It was the perfect fit,'" she said, tearing up. "It was like it was made for Hayden."
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

LYNCHBURG, Va. — Hayden Grosvenor knows all about being patient.

The 17-year-old Rustburg native and Liberty Christian Academy junior has spent most of his life patiently waiting for a liver transplant. A wait that lasted more than 10 years finally came to an end for Grosvenor and his family when they received a call on Dec. 11 that a liver had become available.

The Grosvenors were relaxing at home when the phone rang at about 8:30 p.m. It was the Cincinnati Children's Hospital telling them to pack their bags and get ready for their flight.

"I just couldn't believe it was finally happening," said Laura Grosvenor, Hayden's mom, remembering that night.

Their flight was ready at 5 a.m. Dec. 12 and Hayden Grosvenor was receiving his transplant in Ohio by 6 p.m. that night.

When he was only 5 years old, his mom said, he was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare disorder that causes the body to make too many dendritic cells that can build into tumors and disrupt the functions of normal tissues in the body. As a result, Hayden received chemotherapy for a year and a half. The LCH went into remission but left his liver severely damaged.

"The doctors told us when he was about 7 that he had a bad liver and it was eventually going to catch up with him," Laura Grosvenor said.

Hayden was put on the liver transplant list for the first time about 10 years ago. The last 10 years, Laura Grosvenor said, have been a roller coaster full of highs and lows.

"He'd be doing well for a while so they'd take him off the list, then he would start to decline and they'd put him back on," she said. "He was off and on the transplant list for years. When he went back on it about a year and a half ago, we knew he wouldn't come off until he got a transplant."

In March, Hayden's doctors said a liver wasn't coming quickly enough and they would need to consider a living donor.

"Of course I wanted to see if I could donate," Laura Grosvenor said.

She was approved to give Hayden a piece of her liver, and surgery was scheduled for the end of November. About a week before the surgery was supposed to happen, Laura Grosvenor said their doctors rescheduled it for January because of some concerns over COVID-19 around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

"We just had to keep trusting God's timing," she said.

Laura Grosvenor said Hayden's liver was much more damaged than his doctors had realized. Hayden likely wouldn't have been strong enough for the surgery in November and the extensive damage would have caused the surgery to be more complicated if they had waited until January.

"God had His hand on this and he provided in His perfect timing and His perfect way," she said.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 13, the surgeon finished Hayden's surgery.

"The surgeon said, 'It was the perfect fit,'" she said, tearing up. "It was like it was made for Hayden."

Laura Grosvenor said the support and prayers of their family, friends and the LCA community helped them get through the last 10 years.

Around Liberty Christian Academy, everybody knows Hayden. Jeff Capps, high school principal at LCA and family friend of the Grosvenors, said everyone at the school has been praying for Hayden and his family during this long journey.

"He's just such a sweet young man," Capps said. "Teachers love him, the students love him; he just means so much to our school. We were just so thankful to hear he finally got his liver. We know what a long journey it has been."

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Capps said he can't wait for Hayden to be back at school for his senior year.

"I'm looking forward to having him back in the hallways and watching him walk across the stage next year," he said.

David Dudley, Lynchburg resident and close friend of Hayden and the Grosvenors, connected with Hayden over their mutual passion for fishing. Dudley, a professional bass fisherman, met Hayden more than five years ago and has been fishing with him ever since.

While Hayden looks up to Dudley and is inspired by him as a fisherman, Dudley said Hayden is his hero, too.

"I just don't think he really gets how much of an inspiration he is to me," Dudley said. "I'm the one that's supposed to be the one that the kids all look up to, but in reality, that dude is a warrior. He's a fighter."

Fishermen have a quiet confidence on the water, Dudley said, and Hayden has that in everyday life, too.

"When he's fishing, he's resting in the knowledge that a fish is coming," Dudley said. "That attitude is the same he's had while waiting for this liver. He knew it would come."

Whether it's waiting hours on a dock for a fish to bite, or waiting a decade for a liver transplant, Dudley said he's never heard Hayden complain.

Laura Grosvenor said while she's been staying with Hayden in the hospital through his recovery, she's also been thinking a lot about the donor and their family over the past few days.

"It really breaks my heart that someone had to pass away, but we are so thankful for the family's decision to donate," she said. "He's getting a new life because of this donor."

Laura Grosvenor said Hayden's recovery has gone exceptionally well and he hasn't been in much pain. He spent a few days in the intensive care unit, she said, before being moved to a regular room in the hospital. Hayden, along with his mom and dad, Gene Grosvenor, will stay at the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House until around February.

For about the last 12 years, Laura Grosvenor said, Hayden and his family have been traveling to Cincinnati to check in with his doctors there. During that time, the Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House was being built. The house was completed and unveiled at the end of November — just in time for Hayden to recover there.

"Not only did God provide the perfect liver at the perfect time, but He's given us a brand new Ronald McDonald House," she said.

Laura Grosvenor said Hayden's sister, Haley Grosvenor, has also been such a huge support for Hayden and the family during this journey. While the rest of the family is in Cincinnati, Haley Grosvenor has been collecting 'Get Well Soon' cards and gift baskets from their family, friends and neighbors.

The COVID-19 pandemic actually helped the Grosvenors during this time of transition, Laura Grosvenor said. Because of the pandemic and Hayden's compromised immune system, he was already taking all online classes through LCA, so he'll be able to continue with that through his recovery. She's able to continue working remotely, as well, and the pandemic allowed him to get used to wearing a mask and staying distanced from others, both requirements following a transplant surgery as he is at high risk for infection and organ rejection.

While they won't get to be home for the holidays, Laura Grosvenor said this answered prayer was the best Christmas gift.

"We are just so blessed," she said. "We're so blessed to be standing here on the road to recovery with this liver transplant that we've been waiting on for 12 years is finally behind us."