By Associated Press - Friday, July 3, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A Nebraska girl who died of brain cancer Tuesday at age 3 helped save the lives of two Pennsylvania children through organ donation.

Olivia Swedberg’s mother reached out to the family of 2-year-old Lucas Goeller through Facebook telling them she wanted to give him Olivia’s liver. Lucas, of Indiana Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh, had been waiting more than 18 months for a lifesaving transplant.

“It’s so hard to describe,” Lauressa Swedberg, 31, of North Platte, Nebraska, told the Tribune-Review. “I am this mourning mother, but I also feel wonderful to know she is living on. I feel so grateful because I now know that she was here for a purpose - to save others.”

Doctors diagnosed Olivia in May with a terminal tumor in her brain stem. But the illness did not negatively affect her organs, which made her a perfect candidate to donate, Swedberg said.

Lucas received the organ during a transplant surgery the day after Olivia died.

Dr. George Mazariegos, chief of pediatric transplantation at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in Lawrenceville, said Lucas would have died within weeks without the new liver. Lucas had developed biliary atresia, a disease that inhibits bile ducts in the liver.

Angelo Giorno, of Hershey, received Olivia’s intestine and spleen. The 4-year-old suffers from a condition known as short bowel syndrome after he was born with his intestines outside his body.

Mazariegos said social media has been “definitely changing the landscape for transplantation” by providing a platform for families to talk.

“It’s exciting to see the wonderful benefit that it is having in the past few years,” he said.

And Swedberg agrees.

“Social media is incredible,” she said. “I know some people get fed up with Facebook, but without it this would have never happened.”


This story has been corrected to show the last name of the 3-year-old girl is Swedberg, not Swedsberg.

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