The Doctors: Rare Disease Crigler-Najjar Syndrome & Brianna’s Story


The Doctors: Brianna’s Story

Incredible and emotional medical stories were shared on The Doctors February 25 2013, including the story of nine-year-old Brianna. When Brianna was born with extremely yellow skin and eyes, doctors told her parents that their baby was jaundiced. However, Brianna was eventually diagnosed with an extremely rare liver disease known as Crigler-Najjar Syndrome.

Each night, Brianna sleeps under blue photo therapy lights. If she does not receive blue light therapy, Brianna’s condition leads to yellowing of the eyes and skin and even potentially brain damage or death. Because of this, Brianna’s social life has been deeply affected. She can’t have sleepovers at friends’ houses, and kids at school can be cruel when it comes to her disease.


Like any mother, Brianna’s mom, Brooke, wishes that her daughter will live a happy and healthy life. However, she may never get to experience a normal life because of her disease. Hear more about Brianna’s story in the video below.


The Drs: Crigler-Najjar Syndrome

Brianna’s parents, Bob and Brooke, joined Dr. Travis Stork and Dr. Jim Sears to discuss their daughter’s disease. At the time of her birth, Brianna was only the 52nd person in the United States and the 212th in the world with Crigler-Najjar Syndrome.

The Doctors: Rare Disease Crigler-Najjar Syndrome & Brianna's Story

The Doctors learned Brianna’s story and explained how Crigler-Najjar Syndrome affects the body.

Dr. Travis explained more about this extremely rare condition. In the body, red blood cells are constantly recirculating. Bilirubin is a byproduct which makes your skin look yellow if the liver is unable to process it. In a person with Crigler-Najjar Syndrome, the body lacks the enzyme to process bilirubin, which causes it to build up in the skin.

Blue light therapy helps to break down bilirubin because Brianna’s body can’t do it for her. It’s a common treatment for many babies who are born jaundiced, which typically goes away after a few days. When Brianna’s jaundice never went away, she was diagnosed with Crigler-Najjar Syndrome.

The Doctors: Live Donor Liver Transplant

One option that Brianna’s parents have considered is a liver transplant from a live donor, which in this case, would be Brianna’s father Bob. In a live donor transplant, a portion of the donor liver is removed and placed into the body of the recipient. Since the liver is the only organ of the body that can regenerate itself, both the recipient and the donor livers will eventually grow to normal size.

Dr. Sears pointed out that liver transplants are usually safe and free of complications. The one giant roadblock is that Brianna would have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life.

The Drs TV: Surprise For Brianna

Despite her challenging disease, Brianna is an adorable child who loves to sing and dance. She joined The Doctors to discuss how she deals with her condition and even taught Dr. Travis and Dr. Sears a few of her favorite dance moves!

To brighten Brianna’s day, Dr. Travis and Dr. Sears planned a special surprise for her. They arranged for the stars of Brianna’s favorite Disney Channel show, Austin & Ally, to call Brianna. Actors Ross Lynch and Laura Marano invited Brianna and her family to the set of the show, and Brianna was totally shocked. Check out this touching surprise in the video below.


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