For Washington natives Garrett and Tricia Roark, their first child was on track to being a healthy one.
But there was a disease sneaking up in Tricia’s organs, something that was not seen or even tested for. The disease unfortunately cost their son, Gage, his life before he had a chance to live it. The disease also put Gage’s mother in a two-week drug-induced coma and, months later, she is still feeling the effects.
The disease is called acute fatty liver of pregnancy or AFLP. To help the family and raise awareness, Tyler and Jenilee Counsil, Garrett’s sister and brother-in-law, created the FLiP Foundation. The FLiP stands for “Fatty Liver in Pregnancy.”
Acute fatty liver of pregnancy, or AFLP, is a rare but likely fatal complication that occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, according to published medical journal articles. According to research, it manifests itself in one out of every 10,000 to 15,000 pregnancies.
The disease is not carried by just one parent or even caused by environmental factors, it is a genetic disorder that has keys with both the mother and father and takes the right combination to trigger the silent disease.
“It’s like a switch that flips on in the DNA that just hurts these people,” Tyler said.
In fact, when Tricia went into her doctor, AFLP was not considered as a possible diagnosis, Tyler said, nor is it screened like other prenatal diseases. The disease builds up over time, storing toxins harmful to both the mother and child in the liver and then other organs and reveals itself in the third trimester. She went to her doctor just before she was due to have her son and had yellowing of the skin and eyes.
About 48 hours later, she was doubled over in pain and rushed to the hospital. At first, doctors thought one of a myriad of diseases, like viral hepatitis, cholestasis, or pre-eclampsia. Gage did not survive long after birth, due to the toxins that eventually shut down his mother’s organs. Only when testing was done after Gage’s passing did doctors give the diagnosis of AFLP.