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Nurse Provides Life-Saving Transplant to 5-Year-Old Girl: Her Daughter: 'I Did What Any Mother Would Do'

“I’m so thankful,” Haley Bice tells PEOPLE, adding that it means the world that her daughter "doesn't have the pain that she's been living with for years"

<p>Courtesy of the Bice Family</p> From Left, Adleigh and Haley Bice

Courtesy of the Bice Family

From Left, Adleigh and Haley Bice

For years, it broke Haley Bice's heart to watch her 5-year-old daughter Adleigh, who was diagnosed with liver disease as an infant, be in pain and feel like she couldn't do anything to stop it. That all changed last month, when Haley gave her daughter 40 percent of her liver — and saved her life.

She's "a real-life hero for our little girl,” says Haley’s husband, 29-year-old Kendall Bice.

Haley, 30, says she doesn’t feel like a hero, just a mom. “I did what any mother would do for their baby,” she shares.

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When Adleigh Bice was born on Mar. 27, 2018, her bilirubin levels were high.

“We tried all the things," her mom says. “But it would not come down.”

At 7 weeks old, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a blockage of the tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder, which can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dr. George Mazariegos, 60, Chief of Pediatric Transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, tells PEOPLE that without a transplant, "she would've had a high chance of dying from infection" over the next couple of years.

"There's a mortality rate of 80%," he explains.

Although Adleigh underwent a procedure to connect her liver to her small intestine — which was not curative, but "was able to give her several years of life," according to Mazariegos — the family was told that someday she would probably need a liver transplant.

<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> (L-R) Haley Bice and daughter Adleigh

Courtesy of the Bice family

(L-R) Haley Bice and daughter Adleigh

The little girl spent most of her life on year-long doses of antibiotics, and anytime she had a fever, her parents rushed to the emergency room.

When doctors told the family that it was time to talk about a transplant in October 2023, Haley says she had already thought about stepping up herself. "I had been thinking about being her donor for a while,” she says.

My Extraordinary Family is PEOPLE's new series that explores fascinating families in all their forms. If you have a sweet story the world needs to know, send the details to love@people.com.  

<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> (L-R) Adleigh Bice and mom Haley

Courtesy of the Bice family

(L-R) Adleigh Bice and mom Haley

Last spring, while studying to be a family nurse practitioner, Haley did her thesis research project on living liver donation. During the process, she learned that mother's retain some of their children’s cells, which can lower the risk of rejection.

“I felt really strongly that that was the best option,” says Haley, who graduated in May 2023.

<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> Adleigh Bice

Courtesy of the Bice family

Adleigh Bice

Living liver donation is not offered in their home state of Alabama, so the family, along with their 4-year-old son, Elijah, traveled to Pittsburgh.

“Without a transplant, she would've had a high chance of dying from infection,” says Dr. George Mazariegos, 60, Chief of Pediatric Transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Related: NICU Nurse Who Dreamt of Motherhood Adopts Patient Facing Medical Challenges: 'I’m So Lucky' (Exclusive)

<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> (L-R) Adleigh and Haley Bice

Courtesy of the Bice family

(L-R) Adleigh and Haley Bice

On the day of the transplant, Feb. 21, Haley's mother and stepfather drove her to the hospital. For Haley, who has always been the one to stay by her daughter's side in the hospital, the hardest part was knowing she wouldn't be the one there when her daughter was taken into surgery and when she woke up.

In their last moment together before the operation began, Haley told her little girl, “I love you, and I’ll see you in a little while.”

Fortunately, the seven-hour transplant procedure went very well, Mazariegos says. He took about 40 percent of the mother’s liver, the left lobe, and reconnected it inside her daughter. The procedure marked the UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's 200th living donor liver transplant.

<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> (L-R) Dr. George Mazariegos, Haley Bice, Adleigh Bice, Kendall Bice

Courtesy of the Bice family

(L-R) Dr. George Mazariegos, Haley Bice, Adleigh Bice, Kendall Bice

Both mother and daughter have recovered rapidly from the surgery, and Adleigh's doctor says her prognosis is very good and that she should have a long healthy life.

“Her disease is cured, it doesn't come back,” he says. “That's really exciting and a unique thing.”

“I’m so thankful,” says Haley, whose family has been staying at Ronald McDonald House as the mother-daughter pair recovers.  “She doesn't have the pain that she's been living with for years and years.”

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<p>Courtesy of the Bice family</p> Adleigh Bice

Courtesy of the Bice family

Adleigh Bice

Before the transplant, the family never took vacations more than an hour away from the hospital in case Adleigh got sick. Now, Haley says, maybe they can go on a cruise, or explore the world as a family.

“It's definitely been emotional,” adds her husband, who says he cries even thinking about how she saved Adleigh's life.

“We have been prayed over,” Haley says. “Adleigh was just determined to not be knocked down and stay down.”

For more information about becoming a living donor click here.

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Read the original article on People.