Onalaska high school friends reunite to save a toddler’s life

Lucas Hougom received a live transplant one year ago

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT)- Doctors call him the miracle baby.  One year ago, the Onalaska toddler received a life-saving liver transplant. It happened, thanks to a split second decision. 

His toothy grin is hard to resist, but it’s Lucas Hougom’s story that makes this Onalaska toddler even more precious. Jenny and Tyler Hougum knew someone was wrong minutes after their son was born. “He was a very jaundice baby, very green and yellow.”, explains Lucas’ dad Tyler.

Lucas was diagnosed with a rare virus that his doctors in La Crosse and the specialists at UW-Health couldn’t stop from attacking his liver.  “He was getting sicker. We ultimately needed a liver transplant,” explains Jenny.

Lucas didn’t have much time. When a deceased donor wasn’t available, his parents took to social media. Shared by family and friends, the post made it’s way from Wisconsin to North Carolina, and onto the desktop of Jenny’s high school classmate, Christina Wettstein. The mom of two, who’s husband was deployed, didn’t think twice. She hopped on a plane and head to Madison two days later. “You have a million opportunities every day to do something good, but very little in a lifetime, does something like this come along, where you’re presented with this opportunity. So, it was like yeah, why not,” says Wettstein.

The hospital fast tracked exams and tests approving the transplant just as Lucas’ body shut down. “His liver gave out. It was done. If Chrissy wasn’t there. We wouldn’t have our son,” says Tyler. 

One year later, Lucas is healthy, and happy. His doctors call him a miracle.  Lucas’ parents can’t help but says the same about the old friend that saved his life. “She has always said just buy me a cup of coffee when this is all over,” Jenny jokes. “They send me a Starbucks gift cards for every holiday, so we’re even. It’s all good,” Christina replies with a laugh.

All good, for these parents who share a special bond, and their love for a special little boy.  “I just want him to succeed. He’s destined for great things and I’m just happy to be a small part of that,” says Wettstein. 

The experts at UW-Health believe Lucas is the first pediatric patient to be transplanted while still having active “CMV“; the virus that attached his liver.  Lucas doing very well; learning to walk and getting lots of hugs and kisses from his loved ones.