Fundraiser set for liver transplant recipient

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013 12:09 a.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – Arianna Gillespie had been alive a mere 16 months when her liver began to rapidly deteriorate.

The Lake in the Hills toddler spent a week in the hospital, diagnosed with acute liver failure and pancytopenia – a disease that causes an abnormally low level of blood cells produced by the bone marrow.

In desperate need of a liver transplant, Gillespie spent only two days on the waiting list because of her age and condition before undergoing the transplant procedure at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago on Aug. 6.

“She was really lucky because there was an immediate need for a liver,” said her aunt, Diana Kamysz. “She’s doing really well now and even starting to come off some of the medication.”

Working through The Children’s Organ Transplant Association, McHenry County volunteers are attempting to raise $50,000 for Gillespie’s family to help in the road to recovery. The Children’s Organ Transplant Association is a national charity dedicated to organizing and guiding communities in raising funds for transplant related expenses.

The cost of transplants often exceeds $500,000.

Nick’s Pizza and Pub, located at 856 Pyott Road in Crystal Lake, will host a fundraiser Wednesday to help the cause. Between 4 and 10 p.m., 15 percent of all proceeds on dine-in or carryout orders will go to help the Gillespie family pay medical bills. Patrons only need to bring a flier that can be accessed at on the Activities and Events link.

For those who cannot make the fundraiser, donations can be made directly through the website. Family and friends have already raised $7,181.50 of the $50,000 goal.

Don Gillespie, Arianna’s grandfather, said community support has been strong and family, friends and those who reach out to help have been inspired by his granddaughter’s amazing recovery.

Her recovery has gone so well she was removed from the bone marrow transplant list after her blood count regenerated at a faster-than-expected pace. She also has improved enough to receive blood treatment locally instead of needing to make the trip to Chicago.

“Hopefully she won’t have any memories of everything she went through because she has gone through an awful lot,” Don Gillespie said. “But she’s more active now and more like a little girl. It’s just amazing to see her transformation.”

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