“He went from being a seemingly healthy kid who plays hockey to a kid who needs a liver transplant in a very short span of time,” said Megan Butler, MD, a hepatologist who treated Colby at Duke Children’s Hospital.
In fact, it was playing hockey that likely saved Colby’s life. During a game early in 2015, a body check sent Colby to the ice, where he alarmingly remained. He couldn't feel his legs, he said. Taken to an emergency department, he eventually regained sensation and walked out of the hospital that night.
At his hockey evaluations that fall, however, he reported that he was still having occasional numbness in his legs. His parents, Naomi and Brian Askew of Apex, North Carolina, both emergency department nurses, immediately had him evaluated at a Wake County hospital.
Tests showed that Colby had a rare congenital liver abnormality. His portal vein was missing, and his body had responded by creating new pathways for blood that resulted in a dangerous increase in pressure in his blood vessels. That pressure caused his spleen to enlarge and the veins in his esophagus and elsewhere to swell in ways that were potentially life-threatening.
“Colby was at risk of a ruptured spleen and possible death with any abdominal injuries,” Butler said. “Playing hockey was obviously a risk factor.”