By Afatamah McNair, liver recipient
It started with itching on the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet. This strange sensation led me to believe I was having some sort of reaction to pesticides. I went to my doctor and was stunned to learn that the itching was a symptom of an auto-immune disease.
As a result of this condition, my liver was failing and I would need a transplant to survive.
I never had any signs of illness or problems that would make me think I had such a serious disease. It was so unexpected. My doctors told me my liver was completely shot and I had been sick for awhile without realizing it.
I listed for a liver transplant in September 2001. I was familiar with the concept but didn’t know anything about transplantation. When the call came just one month later that a liver was available for me, it was surreal. I was speechless, it all happened so quickly.
Thanks to my donor, I received a life-saving transplant on Oct. 6, 2001. After the surgery, I realized that I had energy and wasn’t tired all the time. My friends also noticed the change in my complexion and said that I had been jaundiced before the transplant.
I am so grateful to my donor and I want to live my life to make him or her proud.
Since my transplant, I went back to school to learn sign language to help others. I have a hard-of-hearing brother and sign language has brought us closer. It has also helped whenever I see someone who cannot speak and is having trouble communicating.
I have a big family, and I’ve been able to see it grow! Since my transplant, 10 great-grandchildren have been born. I’ve been able to celebrate 10 more anniversaries with my husband, Shaka, and have written to my donor’s family to express my gratitude for all of these gifts.
I feel like my new liver has helped me help others. Being an organ donor is such an amazing gift to give someone and I appreciate every additional day I’ve been given.
I had a brother that was waiting for a kidney at the same time I was going through my illness and surgery. He passed away waiting, not long after my transplant. Now my husband’s little sister is waiting for a kidney. My family knows the enormous need for organ and tissue donations and the need for people to register to leave the “Gift of Life” so someone else can have a second chance at life.