My name is Dustin and I’m 33 years old. I was born in Hollywood, FL in December of 1985 and spent the better part of the first year of my life at Miami Children’s Hospital. At about 2 weeks old I was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and almost immediately underwent a Kasai Procedure to correct the problem. My gallbladder had only partially developed and was removed as well as my appendix. I went throughout my childhood getting consistent bloodwork every couple of months with the known possibility that at any time a liver transplant could be imperative to my survival.
My parents always kept a close eye on me as their understanding of my condition made everything so much more real to them. Anytime I got the smallest fever or cold they would take me to the doctor for bloodwork. Over the years my bloodwork stayed normal with the occasional large spikes in my liver enzymes when I would get sick and my body had to fight it off. Despite my Biliary Atresia I lived a perfectly normal childhood and I was cleared to enlist in the Navy in 2006 and have spent nearly 14 years deploying all over the world on Aircraft Carriers.
In July of 2018 I had bloodwork done after running a week long fever and had liver enzymes come back double the normal levels. I was then referred to a GI doctor who did an upper endoscopy and discovered minor grade I varices in my esophagus. I was put on a limited duty status and am currently undergoing evaluation for medical discharge for diagnosis of esophageal varices and possible portal hypertension in addition to my Biliary Atresia. I have been told that I never should have been cleared for enlistment to begin with and am no longer fit for deployment.
They predict that I may need a liver transplant at sometime in the future, but for now other than my elevated liver enzymes my liver function is perfectly normal. I stay positive and I thank God for everyday that I’m here and still fortunate enough to have my own liver. Now as a grown man and the father of an almost 3 year old boy, it is very humbling to understand just how blessed my life has been and I continue to live my best life I possibly can always hoping and praying that I can stay healthy and get most out of everything this life has to offer. I try to live everyday with the goal of being around to see my son grow up and become a man and a Dad someday.
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