By Laura Lewis, transplant recipient
For most of my life, I have been a healthy and active person. As far as family history, my mother had dealt with elevated liver enzymes, but other than that, I led a normal life. That is, until 2007.
In November 2007, when I was 48, I became very ill with what I thought was the flu. I was sick for what felt like months and just could not get better. It wasn’t until my doctor ran further testing that I was diagnosed with liver failure and my only option of survival was a liver transplant.
One of my first thoughts was how I was going to die. I’ve always been afraid of death and now that my life expectancy was hitting me in the face, it was hard to wrap my mind around. It was unfathomable to think my only chance of survival would come from a complete stranger saying “yes” to donation.
Before I was placed on the national transplant waiting list, I had to talk to my family. I had to tell my six boys their mother was very, very ill. It was a hard discussion. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who cared for me throughout the entire wait and beyond. He was my rock.
The wait was agonizing. For five months I prayed for a donor to be found while I became sicker and sicker.
And then, on March 16, 2008 at 4:50 in the morning, I got the call! I worked at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and I called the charge nurse to tell her I wasn’t coming in to work that day, I was coming in as a patient!
I was third in line for the liver and was thankful when the doctors told me I would be the one to receive it. The other two people ahead of me in line were ill that day. While I was sad for them, I was elated to get my second chance.
Waking up from the surgery, I felt better than I had in a long time. I was able to go home after five days in the hospital and I was back to work within five weeks!
In the nine years since my transplant, every day is a miracle. I’ve written my donor family every year on the anniversary of my transplant to say thank you, but haven’t heard back from them. While I would love to know anything about my donor, I do know they saved my life and for that I am eternally grateful.
My donor’s gift to me not only changed my life, but also the lives of two of my boys. My liver disease, then transplant, inspired them to earn their nursing degrees. The ripple effect of my donor’s decision to be a hero is astounding. I encourage you to consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor today. You never know the legacy you may leave.