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Faulkner family plans benefit for teen

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Josh Faulkner is used to working with families of sick patients. But in a matter of just days he went from a nurse to sitting by his teenage son’s bedside and hoping for a miracle.
Faulkner, a Grant County native, lives in Pensacola, Fla. with his wife, Jessica, and four children.

His 14-year-old son Trenton came home from school on Oct. 10 complaining of a severe stomachache, which lasted four days.
Josh was pulling a long weekend shift at work and hadn’t seen his son, but got concerned when he received a text message from him on Monday saying that his eyes were yellow.

“I knew something was wrong the minute I saw him,” Josh said.
At the hospital, tests were performed, but nothing was evident.
“I thought maybe he had a blocked bile duct, but the ultrasound didn’t show anything,” Josh said.

Trenton was moved to a larger hospital for more tests.
“He just kept getting more tired and more yellow,” Josh said. “He wasn’t in pain, but it was obvious he was sick.”

A hematologist said the chances that Trenton would need a liver transplant were small, but he should be moved to a larger hospital with capabilities to perform a transplant if needed.
Trenton was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Atlanta Eggleston where he was admitted to the transplant unit.

“He was so excited about flying because he’d never flown before,” Josh said. “He kept taking photos with his phone, but he looked like Sponge Bob. He was just lethargic and not himself. It hit me that it’s going to be bad if things don’t change.”

Josh said he was overwhelmed with feelings as his son fell asleep on the flight.
“I just kept thinking that this might be the last big moment of his life and it was a helpless feeling seeing your son in that state and not being able to help him,” Josh said.

Within a few days, the family was given the news that Trenton wasn’t getting better and he’d have to be placed on a liver transplant list.
“Even though you are seeing it, you still can’t believe it,” Josh said. “They warned us that he’d get really bad, really quick.”

Josh made a decision to be tested to see if he could be a liver donor, but Trenton deteriorated too fast and had to have a transplant immediately.
The following day, the family received word that a donor liver had been located.

“I remember feeling relieved because at this point you know his life depends on receiving this organ,” Josh said. “You also realize that someone died but they chose to do this.”
The surgery was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., but Trenton woke up delirious at 7 p.m. because toxins had collected in his brain.

“He was so swollen. He didn’t even look like Trenton anymore,” Josh said. “We kept telling him we loved him because we wanted that to be the last thing he heard.”
Doctors feared the swelling was so severe they would not be able to perform the surgery, but a CT scan caused them to move forward.

“The surgeon told us that time wasn’t on our side because our son was very, very sick. He said he didn’t feel good about the surgery, but he was willing to try,” Josh said.
After a nearly six-hour surgery, the new liver was transplanted and starting to work.
Five months later, Trenton is doing well.

“We are very blessed,” Josh said.
Trenton will have to take anti-rejection medication the rest of his life and with a transplanted liver having a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years, he’ll face another liver transplant surgery at some point.

The Faulkner family is close knit and that’s why they have teamed up with KODA (Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates) for a benefit on April 26 at Turfway Park in Florence. Proceeds from the benefit will be set aside to help Trenton with transplant related expenses for the rest of his life. For more information about the benefit, call Sharon Faulkner Cherry at 859-356-3692.

Josh graduated from Grant County High School in 1998 and joined the Navy after graduation. He was commissioned as a naval officer in 2012 and despite living in seven different places in 16 years, he considers Grant County home.
“It’s amazing to know that people love us and care so much,” he said. “We don’t have to live there to have people that know us and care.”
Josh has been an organ donor since he could drive and after his son’s ordeal, he hopes others will take a few moments to become one.
“You can never know how much of a decision to sign the back of your driver’s license is or what that means to another family,” Josh said.