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Stories of hope

Karen Baytch: A new beginning

Karen and partner smiling

In April 2019, I got the flu and after that my health deteriorated.

In September 2019, after feeling ill for several months, I was hospitalized with fluid in my lungs, hepatic encephalopathy and dangerously elevated potassium. I had been seeing a hepatologist for 10 years and she could never figure out why my liver wasn’t healthy.

In October 2019, I had an appointment with a different hepatologist, he told me I had cirrhosis and needed to be put on the transplant list. I left the doctor’s office shocked by his diagnosis. After a few months, I came to accept he was correct. And then COVID hit. I was in and out of the hospital with decompensated cirrhosis. I had fluid retention everywhere, esophageal varices, hepatic encephalopathy, intense itching, peritonitis, anemia, insomnia. And since it was during COVID, no visitors were allowed. So I was alone and scared.

I have two young grandchildren and I became Mimi in the hospital. Because of COVID, the testing to be put on the transplant list took a year and I was waiting on the list for 13 months prior to getting my gift.

From January 2020 until May 2022, my life was put on hold. With every passing month, I felt more discouraged. My partner was always optimistic; I cannot say the same for me. On some days, I felt I was watching myself die. My MELD score wasn’t high enough to be eligible for a liver but I rarely felt healthy. I would think about never seeming my grandchildren grow up. I was saddened that their only memory of me would be of me being in the hospital, missing holidays, being taken away in an ambulance.

That all changed on May 3, 2022. After having emergency hernia surgery on April 29, I received a new liver on May 3,2022. The recovery wasn’t easy. Three additional hospitalizations post transplant. But I have not been in the hospital since July 2022. I am no longer Mimi in the hospital. I have gotten my life back. To celebrate my new beginning, my partner of 25 years and I have decided to get married. He was my rock during the dark days. Every day I thank my anonymous donor, who happened to be the same age of one of my daughters, to giving me this most amazing gift. I now look for ways to pay it forward.

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Liver, Stories

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