Five years ago at the age of 21 I decided to go to ER for some side pain. They did some lab work and my liver function results were really bad. The next thing I know I am hospitalized and a nurse comes in and mentions something about my “cirrhosis”. I thought she had the wrong room. Then she realized nobody had told me. That is when the doctor came in and informed me that I had cirrhosis of the liver and would need a liver transplant. At 21!? I don’t drink or do drugs, I mean sure I’ve always had some health problems but a transplant! However, even then, I was ok with it. I knew that God was going to get me through it, no matter what happened.
I decided to treat my cirrhosis naturally. They had no cause for my cirrhosis. They tested me for everything under the sun. They don’t know why my liver failed. I spent the next 5 years doing every natural protocol you could think of. At one point, I was almost off of the transplant list as I was getting better on one treatment but it was so expensive I had to stop and that is when I got a lot worse. It was in November of 2010 that I really went downhill. I spent a year almost bed-ridden.
From the beginning, they gave us the option of living donor liver transplant and my sister had always said from day one that she would give me part of her liver. Well, after getting sicker and sicker, I was to the point where I couldn’t do anything. I had to use a wheel-chair in stores and had 50 pounds of water retention (ascites). My eyes and skin were as yellow as a sunflower. I was in and out of ER. Finally, I had to make the hardest decision of my life. Suffer for who knows how much longer and chance not receiving a transplant (18 people die a day waiting for transplants). So I decided to take my sister up on her crazy generous offer. After months of testing and doctors appointments, biopsy and so many trips for my sister to San Francisco, we were ready to proceed with a living donor liver transplant. The date was set: August 12, 2011 I would receive the most precious, selfless and amazing gift anyone could ever give. And that anyone was my best friend and sister, Kelly.
The night before surgery was rough, my amazing fiance who stood by my side through almost my entire sickness was scared, Kelly was scared as was her husband. I wasn’t really scared but more upset for Kelly being scared. And of course my parents had BOTH of their daughters going into a MAJOR surgery. I hated that Kelly had to go through this but at the same time was so thankful I would’ve sang it from the roof tops!
The day of surgery Kelly came out of surgery first. As Kelly came out they started to let my family know there were some complications. My family heard from the doctors twice. What was supposed to be at the max an 8 hour surgery was a 16 hour surgery. One of the main arteries was not viable and could not be fixed. They took a vein from my leg and when that didn’t work, they called in plastic surgery and they took a vein from my spleen to try to make that work. That artery failed 3 hours after I got out of the transplant. The doctors gave me just a few weeks to live.
My parents thought that was the end of the story. They honestly thought they had to come see me with no hope. They put me back to sleep with meds until they could take my breathing tube out because they were scared I was going to have a melt down when they told me that my sister went through surgery for no good reason. I didn’t of course, I have always had faith that God would get me through. I knew I was going to be ok. I was just so sad for my sister and I felt she went through surgery for no reason.
Then they let us know that I was going to be placed on the top of the liver transplant list in 5 states! Four long days later, they came to me and told me they had found another liver. It was just my mom and I in the ICU room. My fiance, Coleman (my prince charming) was out getting my favorite chocolate with my 2nd mom (his mom who flew from Georgia to be with us for my transplant). I was hooked up to so many things I could barely move. It was pretty crazy.
That is when my sister also let me know that I shouldn’t be sad, that I was moved to the top of the list and was able to receive a whole sized liver because of what she did. I wouldn’t have been able to be where I was without her. She had the most positive outlook. I was so blessed.
It was pretty strange because I had all these feelings about the 2nd transplant. Sadness that my sisters liver failed, I was so sad for her! I was heart-broken for the family who just lost their son in a car accident and that I was to receive his liver. Excitement that I was going to live. Anxiety that I had to have the same 47 staple incision cut open again and have vital organs removed, yet again. That is something nobody should ever have to do, let alone twice in their life! Let alone in 4 days!
The 2nd transplant went well, they were done in a record 4 hours! Quite the difference from the first 16 hour surgery. I love my new “big boy” liver. I call it that because in my MRI scans it is very large! It has been a long and hard recovery. But I am so blessed and everyday I am so thankful for every breath. Every bird that sings and every hug I get I treasure.
This wasn’t the first time I almost died, perhaps that is why I had so much faith that God would get me through. He has saved me from dying 7 other times (and those weren’t even health related, well ok one of them was)!! My God NEVER lets me done and has blessed me immeasurably.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Now I am ready to move on and live the life that my sister and my donor and of course God has blessed me with! I finally, after almost 3 years of engagement get to marry the love of my life on September 22, 2012. We started dating even when he knew I had cirrhosis, he stood by my side as I got sicker and sicker. Even as my transplant failed, he never bailed! 😉 I also get to go be the hard worker I’ve always been again, find a job and excel! I get to actually live my life, not watch others live while I sit in a chair miserable all day.
I just want to thank Kelly, though words would NEVER be enough, my donor and his family, again no words can describe my gratefulness, Coleman, who was my fiance at the time, was there every second of every day catering to my every need and my parents who were always there, standing up for me, making the appointments, phone calls and being my advocates, especially my amazing mom. My other sister Kristin and my brother Kevin, that when my transplant failed tried to see if they could donate half of their livers to me…. and everyone who came to see me at the hospital, you will never know how much that meant to me, or if you sent me a card. It really is the little things that count. And of course all of the doctors, nurses and wonderful staff at UCSF. What a WONDERFUL hospital, even the hospital food was good. 😉
I want to encourage you to live your life to the fullest. God has good plans for you, even if you can’t see them right now. He really does work all things together for good and He loves you. Just as He saved my life with a transplant, He saves you everyday from things seen and unseen. He is there in that sunset and that quiet voice at night that says, “You are amazing, you have every right to believe that, you were created in MY image”. Yep, that is Him too!