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Parishioners in Wells and Kennebunk Help Eight-Month-Old Girl Receive Successful Liver Transplant

WELLS---An initiative to help the great niece of a member of the Knights of Columbus’ Fr. William J. Kelly Council 9782 in Wells extended beyond the borders of Holy Spirit Parish (St. Mary Church, Wells, and St. Martha Church, Kennebunk), touched the hearts of donors across Maine, and led to the completion of a successful liver transplant in Boston.

“Eight-month-old Ophelia, who is the great niece of Tony and Marilyn Rocha, was finally discharged from Boston Children's Hospital and is now in the arms of her loving mother, father, and little brother,” said Phil Lizotte, a member of the council.

Ophelia had biliary atresia, a life-threatening liver disease, and was in need of a liver transplant. 

“In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, with her health and strength declining, she finally received a donor liver and Ophelia was able to have the life-saving transplant,” said Lizotte. “After weeks of fear and anxiety wondering if the transplant would be rejected, she is now home thanks to God's love and mercy and the overwhelming prayers from all who shared in her journey.”

Holy Spirit Parish’s role in that journey began a few months ago, when the council learned about Ophelia’s story and sprang into action.

“When we learned about baby Ophelia and the financial strain the family has been going through, we all agreed we needed to help,” said Lizotte. “What happened next was extraordinary.”

The constant medical care had caused severe financial hardship for her family. Even though they have insurance, much of the treatment was not fully covered.

“We obtained a picture of little Ophelia and stationed knights with donation baskets in the narthex of St. Mary Church in Wells,” said Lizotte.

As people came in for Mass, it didn't take long for her smiling face to generate donations. The parish also made Ophelia’s parents the beneficiary of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner Dance at St. Mary which was held, fortunately, prior to the restrictions on large gatherings in Maine.

“At the start of the event, I gave a welcoming speech which included Ophelia's story and the financial struggles her parents are going through. The outpouring of love was overwhelming,” said Lizotte.

What initially began with a goal of making a $3,000 donation grew into a massive display of caring for a baby most donors had never met.

“In late March, I was able to send a check for $10,000 to the parents,” said Lizotte. “Ophelia’s dad was at a loss for words to express how so many people he didn’t know could do so much to help them in their time of need.”

But the inspiration extended outside of Wells and Kennebunk and led to an additional large donation to the family.

“Checks poured in from places such as Portland, Arundel, Scarborough, Cumberland, Presque Isle, and Caribou, all containing notes of prayers and hope for little Ophelia,” said Lizotte. “It was incredible and displays the Christian virtues of charity which are clearly shining throughout the Diocese of Portland.”