Nurse Finds Out She's Perfect Match for Age 2 Nephew, Donates Liver To Save His Life


Standing above a hospital bed, Michelle Shark gently held her nephew’s hand. She ran her hands through his hair and watched him sleep, sharing a bond with the 2-year-old that only the two of them could share.

A piece of Shark’s liver is now inside little Gavin Giacalone. Gavin’s family is hopeful the liver transplant will help improve their son’s quality of life.

In November of 2017, Gavin was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called GM3 Synthase Deficiency. In March, Gavin’s family uprooted their lives from San Diego, California, and moved to Pittsburgh to pursue treatment.

“When they decided a liver transplant could help, Michelle didn’t think twice about it,” said Matt Shark, Michelle’s husband. “(She) was first in line to be tested to see if she was a match for Gavin.”

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On June 8, Shark and brave little Gavin underwent transplant surgery in Pittsburgh. Shark, a registered nurse, recovered quickly from the surgery.

Gavin’s recovery has been a bit more complicated, but his family remains optimistic. His parents, Kendra and Vince Giacalone, share updates on their son via their Facebook page, Gavin’s Rare Journey.

“The hepatologist said that if all continues to go well, Gavin can be discharged from the hospital to our place here in Pittsburgh sometime next week and possibly back home to San Diego a month after discharge,” his parents wrote on June 22. “Oh, how we can’t wait for either of those days!”

Shark thanked the hospital doctors and staff for providing excellent care to Gavin during such an uncertain time.

“Dr. Humar is such an amazing surgeon and I’m so thankful for him and everyone else at UPMC for giving us the opportunity to give Gavin a chance at life,” she wrote on Facebook.

Shark’s husband has been on the frontlines, rooting for his wife and nephew to have a smooth, successful outcome. He shared his wife’s story online, which was featured on WTOL 11 News Random Acts of Kindness.

“Michelle has one of the biggest hearts I know,” Matt Shark said. “And in my opinion is a true life hero to undergo surgery to try and give 2-year-old Gavin the best chance at life as possible!”

Gavin’s disease is so rare that his treatment is one-of-a-kind. His family is optimistic the transplant will work, and they can get back home soon.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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