“Give Me Two Thumbs Up”
By Elizabeth Miller, liver recipient
My name is Elizabeth and I had an emergency liver transplant at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on May 19, 2017. I was completely unaware I was in dire liver failure.
On May 15, I was feeling horrible and seeing spots, which was a common symptom of the migraines I had suffered with for more than a decade. I was throwing up quite often and my body felt terrible – I couldn’t regulate my temperature, I just kept going from burning up to freezing cold within minutes of each other.
My husband started to worry by the early afternoon, he was at work and had barely heard a peep from me that day. He asked his boss to leave work early to go home and check on me. When he got home he found me on the family room floor unresponsive and immediately called 911.
The next memory I had that day was waking up in the ER waiting to be admitted. The doctor told me I was in acute liver failure and I was being treated for acetaminophen poisoning. This was quite shocking news as my only medical condition was chronic daily migraines. I had no history of anything being wrong with my liver.
After being in a coma for four days, my doctors knew the only way to save my life was with a liver transplant. I was placed at the highest waitlist status because my liver failure was acute and I urgently needed a transplant. Mere hours later, a liver was matched for me!
After the transplant, I remember coming to and it was storming like crazy outside. When I woke, my doctor (Dr. Schweiterman) and his intern were sitting by my bed. They saw me open my eyes and with a big smile he said, “Welcome back, Elizabeth! Give me two thumbs up if you understand me!”
I gave him the two thumbs up.
A while later my transplant surgeon, Dr. Sage, came into the ICU and ran over and gave me a big hug. They were elated I had woken up so quickly on my own now that my intubation tube was out. I was still attached to every machine you could possibly think of but I was awake and coherent. I understood I had a liver transplant and that it went exceptionally well.
I was released on May 25, 2017 with a cane for walking and a boatload of new medications to take. Just ten days after being admitted to the hospital!
The truly amazing thing was that from the moment I became alert in the ICU and my entire time in regular rooms, I didn’t have one inkling of a migraine for the first time in close to ten years. My head was clear of any migraine pain and I was amazed I could really hear myself think without being in crippling pain.
Although I have written my donor family twice, I have not yet heard back from them. I hope that one day my donor’s family will be in a place where they can meet me and can tell me about the person who cared enough about others to register to be an organ donor. That was the most selfless act of kindness and love anyone could have ever given me. I get a chance to be a strong and healthy wife, mother to our furbabies, daughter, sister and friend and that is priceless. I will be forever grateful for my second chance at life.