By Marie Smith, liver recipient
My journey to a liver transplant began in 1985 when I learned I had contracted Hepatitis C. For the next 20-plus years, I was exhausted and my stomach was bloated, but I attributed not feeling well to being overworked and raising a family.
Finally, in 2011, my condition worsened to the point where my doctor sent me to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where I was diagnosed with liver failure. I couldn’t believe it! He said I would need a liver transplant to save my life. The news that an organ donor’s gift was my only chance at life was frightening. I was scared I would die before receiving my second chance at life.
I was placed on the national transplant waiting list in April 2012. My health status was very unpredictable – my family had to do everything for me. They cleaned my house, helped me shower, mowed the lawn and cooked my meals. I could not do anything for myself. I credit my family and my strong Catholic faith for getting me through that very dark period.
Fast forward to Thursday, November 12, 2014 – my liver was shutting down. I was admitted to the hospital and placed into a light coma in the hopes my condition would improve. Thankfully over this next 24 hours this worked and I was moved to stepdown.
At 8:11 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, the call came!! My coordinator was on the phone asking how soon I could get to the hospital and I exclaimed, “I’m already here!” I was afraid I was too ill to receive the transplant, but the doctors told me I was indeed a good candidate.
I started crying and called my husband, who wasn’t answering. He had been with my late the night before and was resting. I then called my mom and dad who were already on the way to the hospital to visit with me. My emotions were all over the place. I was thankful for this second chance, but couldn’t help but pray for my donor.
My transplant was set for 6:00 that evening. My priest came and we prayed for the donor family and for a safe transplant.
The transplant went smoothly and I am now almost three years post-surgery. I am able to cook and take care of my family, which includes raising my nephew Evan. I’m able to help my mom with my 103-year-old grandma. I’m able to do almost everything I was able to do before I got sick. There are still up and downs, but it’s nothing like I was before. Life is amazing.
To honor my anonymous donor, I am taking part in the Dash for Donation – it’s our second year! “Team Rainbow” will be dashing through the streets of Columbus to give thanks for the life I have been given. I give thanks to my donor every single day. It’ll feel great to be part of the thousands of others who have been touched by donation.
While waiting, I knew that my life was in someone else’s hands – someone who chose to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. I ask you to educate yourself, your friends and your family members about the importance of registering. Have that conversation – it saves lives!