(Above) Hunter Messer celebrates winning the Gold Medal for the long jump competition at the 2007 World Transplant Games in Bangkok, Thailand.
Hunter Messer is a champion swimmer, Olympic athlete, world traveler and baseball all-star, all at the age of 11. Even more amazing about his sports feats is the fact that Hunter was born with a rare, multisystem disorder called Alagille Syndrome that may affect the liver, heart, eyes, kidneys and skeleton. This syndrome is diagnosed in approximately 1 of every 100,000 live births.
Hunter needed a liver transplant. His parents, Perry and Marcia, brought the infant to the Health Science Center to meet Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., a practicing pediatric and transplant surgeon.
Later, when Hunter was 11 months old, the call came that a donor liver had been procured. The Messers rushed to University Hospital, where Dr. Cigarroa led the team that performed the surgery.
Dr. Cigarroa’s compassion for the Messer family is remembered to this day.
“Dr. Cigarroa is my hero!” Marcia said. “We met what seemed like hundreds of medical personnel during Hunter’s fight for his life, and Dr. Cigarroa always stood out above them all. He really took the time to care about our son and about my husband and me, and he always made sure that we understood everything that was going on. He cared about us as if we were his own family. I will always hold a special place in my heart for Dr. Cigarroa.”
In August 2007, Hunter and his parents attended the 16th World Transplant Games in Bangkok, Thailand, where he won four gold medals. He brought home the gold in the 25-meter freestyle, the 25-meter breaststroke, the long jump and the ball toss.
Competing in the Transplant Games is Hunter’s way of educating the public about the importance of becoming an organ donor.
“Hunter is truly the most loving, caring, giving person I have ever met,” Marcia said. “Having a transplant really gave him the courage to be able to overcome any obstacles he comes across. The love of organ donors and the skill and compassion of Dr. Cigarroa helped make it all possible.”