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Ethan Glaser's Story

Ethan and Chad Glaser have a special father-son bond. They share a love of skiing that has taken them to the French Alps. But they share something even more intimate: the same liver.

When Ethan was a toddler and needed a liver transplant, his father was an ideal match. Chad donated a fifth of his liver to save Ethan's life, who was born with blocked bile ducts from a rare condition called biliary atresia. Twenty years later—thanks to the pediatric expertise at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at Columbia University Irving Medical Center—Ethan has been able to have a normal childhood, graduate college…and ski with his dad.

It's not unusual for newborns to have jaundice for a few days. But when Ethan's jaundice persisted three months after his birth in Buffalo, New York on June 22, 2001, his parents knew something was wrong. It was hard finding a local doctor to diagnose and treat biliary atresia. Chad's sister found the skill set the family had been looking for: the (late) pediatric liver surgeon Peter Altman, MD, then Chief of Pediatric Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley and a legend in the surgical management of this rare disorder.

Dr. Altman had brought the Kasai procedure to America from Korea. The procedure removes damaged bile ducts outside the liver and replaces them with a loop of the infant's own small intestine. While not a cure, it is typically the first treatment for biliary atresia and delays the need for liver transplantation.

The Road to Recovery

Ethan and his family traveled to New York City that September and Dr. Altman performed the Kasai procedure. While it was a partial success, Dr. Altman told Chad that Ethan would likely need a liver transplant in the next two years, which turned out to be the case. On June 6, 2003, 20% of Chad's liver was removed. Renowned pediatric liver transplant surgeon Jean Emond, MD—Vice Chairman of Surgery and Chief of Transplantation Services at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia—took out Ethan's diseased liver and implanted his father's healthy liver tissue in its place. Since the liver regenerates itself, it provided normal function in a matter of days and continued to grow to full size as Ethan matured. Ethan's medical care was directed by pediatric liver specialist Steven Lobritto, MD—Medical Director, Pediatric Liver Transplantation, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia—since his life-saving transplantation.

Taking to the Trails

Ethan recovered well from the transplant and anti-rejection medications became a routine part of his life. He needed another surgery a year later to treat scar tissue in the liver and in sixth grade, a bile duct reconstruction. He returns to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley annually and undergoes surveillance liver biopsy every 5 years to optimize his medical regimen - a routine part of his care as a transplant recipient.

Ethan has led a normal life despite having had a liver transplant. When Ethan was four, he began skiing. Taking a ski trip together each year has become a tradition for him and his father. A 20th anniversary transplant celebration took them to the slopes of Chamonix, France.

Ethan has few memories of his ordeal other than his surgical scar and knowing he has been taking medication his whole life. He graduated in May 2023 from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in cybersecurity and will move to North Carolina in July to start a full-time job—and an independent adult life.

"As crazy as it sounds, Columbia is my favorite place to go," said Chad. "No one wants to spend a day at a children's hospital, but I feel like it's an amazing place. And it always will be."

"Our relationship is more than the typical father and son bond," concluded Ethan. "I'm always carrying a piece of him inside me."