The Washington Times-Herald

October 16, 2013

Foundation 'FLiPs' at chance to create awareness

By Nate Smith Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — 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.

“It’s very dangerous. Part of the danger comes from misdiagnosis,” Tyler said.

In fact, Tricia is in the hospital now and will have surgery for her pancreas and spleen in the coming days. Her spleen was found detached.

“For Tricia, her organs are slowly coming back and awakening but it is a slow process,” Tyler said.

The foundation in its short history has been busy helping the Roarks and creating awareness for the disease. The first event was a 5K color run/walk at Eastside Park. Through mostly word of mouth and social media, the foundation had 70 participants.

Last week, the foundation held an event again at Eastside Park, complete with family fun for children and parents.

Tupperware representative Sarah Fisher was also at the Kiwanis Building and will donate proceeds from sales to the end of the month to the foundation.

“(Jenilee) told me about the foundation and the fundraisers,” Fisher said. “Since my son was born early and we had problems with our baby, our hearts went out to them and we wanted to pay it forward.”

There are more events the foundation plans on holding soon in the coming months, including an auction and a dance benefit.

Tyler said he hopes that AFLP will able to be screened and diagnosed quickly, so less families will have to go through what the Roarks went through.

“I’m hoping that starting this foundation that one day AFLP will be (better known),” Tyler said.

Garrett said he is glad the foundation was established to create more awareness about the disease.

“I’m happy they are doing it,” Garrett said.

For more information or to volunteer, check out the FLiP Foundation on Facebook or email the-flip-foundation@hotmail.com

For more information or to volunteer, check out the FLiP Foundation on Facebook or email the-flip-foundation@hotmail.com