Two decades after transplant, he's running to honor donor

Groton - As a newborn, Michael Nix-Paige had a condition that was thought to be fatal. Doctors diagnosed him with hereditary tyrosinemia, which caused amino acids to accumulate in his bloodstream, slowly destroying his liver.

"They gave him four months to live," said Nix-Paige's mother, Amie. "I thought it'd be a dream to see him make it to his first day of kindergarden."

Now Nix-Paige is 21, studying exercise science at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, outperforming the grim expectations from the first year in his life. As a 15-week-old, he received a liver transplant, a surgery that still requires him to take anti-rejection medication twice a day.

Early next year, Nix-Paige will run a marathon in honor of his transplant donor, an infant who died somewhere in the southwestern United States. He is part of a team organized by the American Liver Foundation, which will send about a half-dozen runners from Connecticut to the Walt Disney World Marathon, scheduled for Jan. 8 in Florida.

"I meet with the team every Sunday, and I run around here throughout the week," said Nix-Paige, who played lacrosse at Fitch High School, where he graduated in 2008, but never considered himself a long distance runner.

Nix-Paige became involved with the American Liver Foundation at 17, speaking and participating in walks in Connecticut throughout the year. He hopes to raise $5,000 before his race.

"It's definitely something I'm not used to, but I'm adapting pretty well to it," Nix-Paige said. "It's not about sprinting up and down the field, which I've done before. It's about going longer, which is new."

For Amie Nix-Paige, this race is more than a dream come true. But she says she has one more hope: a chance to meet the family - whose identity was never released to her - who donated the liver that gave her son life.

"That will complete the circle," she said. "It will be a beautiful end to this story."

To donate

To donate to the American Liver Foundation and Michael Nix-Paige's marathon effort, visit alf.convio.net/goto/michaelnixpaige.

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