I am a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse and beyond grateful liver transplant recipient. My transplant journey began over eight years ago as I started feeling lethargic and began having unexplainable lengthy nose bleeds. To treat these nose bleeds I had vascular head surgery, four clips were placed in my head. The nosebleeds persisted, as a result I had arterial head surgery and four more clips were placed in my head. The nosebleeds stopped, but my fatigue lingered. My husband took me to the emergency room one Saturday morning, I was so weak I could hardly move. It was at the ER where I was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease.
I was told that if I did not undergo a liver transplant, I would only have three to four months to live. My husband and I were shocked, I was just at work the day prior! My now wonderful gastrointestinal liver physician, told me the bad news — the wait in California for a liver transplant was three to five years. The good news, I was “healthy” and he recommended I travel outside of the state for a hopeful liver transplant. What? My husband and I never fly anywhere, my husband has a huge fear of flying. However, this was life or death and we had to take this chance. Tearfully, I said my goodbyes to my children and family. We were put on a Life Flight plane.
I was not on the wait list, but we still left July 1, 2013, for a hopeful organ transplant. After three weeks of testing and waiting, I went from a weak 116 pounds, to over 200 pounds. My liver was not filtering and was slowly dying, and so was I. Then on July 31, 2013, I was blessed to have received my life saving liver transplant! I thanked God, my beautiful organ donor, and the family. I knew they were grieving. Very bittersweet emotions ran through my mind. I was given a miraculous gift of life, and I knew I would respect and take good care of this precious gift. My husband Mike and I were in Alabama for three months. I learned how to take care of myself, take my immunosuppressant medications, and focus on transitioning to returning home. Once home, I knew I wanted to raise awareness of organ donation, in March 2014, I became a OneLegacy/Donate Life Ambassador!
As an Ambassador, I go out into our community and share my story, I go to high schools, city hall meetings, tabling events, hospitals, DMV’s and I’ve volunteered as a OneLegacy Aftercare grief group counselor. I have also volunteered with the Painted Turtle and Comfort Zone Camp, these are camps for children. I have volunteered at the Laguna Beach Marine Mammal Center, too. I was very honored to be chosen as a Transplant Recipient Float Rider on the Donate Life Float in the 2018 California Rose Parade! It was wonderful meeting other transplant recipients and donor families from across the country. We share a beautiful common thread of gratitude. This July 31, 2020, I will be celebrating my seventh year liverversary!
I will continue my Ambassadorship to raise awareness of organ and tissue donation, I will volunteer with community organizations, and I will be the best person I can be everyday! I do this to honor my selfless organ donor, Helen, I truly hope I am making her proud. Life is beautiful!