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Recipient Stories

Tuesday’s Tale: Being in Their Shoes

As a hospital professional, I see a lot of different people every day. I see joy in the eyes of people and I see the pain that an unfortunate accident or illness can bring. While it has made me more sympathetic to the needs and emotions of others, it was hard to put myself on the other side of the fence when I became ill in November 2006.

That was when I went into liver failure.

It was Thanksgiving Day when I first started feeling bad. I thought it was the flu. It didn’t take long before I realized there was something else wrong. I was nauseated and vomiting; nothing I did helped so my husband took me to the emergency room. I underwent tests, screens and scans with the end result being less than desirable. My liver was failing due to cryogenic liver disease. This was something I didn’t realize I was predisposed to, as my mother passed away at age 52 from the same disease.

When it came to a crisis, I was used to being the one calling doctors. It sounds like a lot to take on, but I thrive on the adrenaline rush. It was hard for me to actually become the patient instead of the person who was to take care of them.

By the time all my testing was completed, I was listed for a transplant in September 2007. Although the wait was difficult, I still went to work and did everything I could to keep things as routine as possible. It was not so much that I was trying to keep things a secret but I knew I had to stay strong to get through this. I had a family at home; there was no giving up. When I was at home, I was treated like a princess. Between my loving husband and my six, teenaged sons, I was more than loved.

At 5 am on Sunday, March 16, 2008 the call I had waited for so desperately finally came. When my husband handed me the phone, it was like time stopped and the world stood still. All I heard was a young girl’s voice on the other end. She said, “we have donor for you, you need to be here at the hospital in an hour.” It was almost like I was in shock. I told my husband, stood up and just began walking in circles around the house. My husband likes to joke and says he had to lead me around like a zombie. I knew I was in the midst of a miracle.

Everything from that point on was a blur. I remember waking up after the transplant – I felt great, despite the pain. For six days, I stayed in the surgical intensive care unit at The Ohio State University Medical Center. Other than a couple of fevers, my recovery was near perfect. I remember seeing my sons and the relief on their faces. They were so glad to know I was going to be okay. I still laugh when I remember how they thought I was going to jump right out of bed and go home with them that very day! They didn’t realize that I needed time to recover. Although my doctors told me I was going to need nine months of recovery time, I pushed forward and was able to become fully active again in just one month and returned to work after only five weeks.

I still remember the first thing we did when I came home from the hospital. My husband washed my hair for me. Now that is love! He was my rock and my number one support through the whole process. We have been married for 12 years and have successfully managed to raise our sons together with love, respect and honesty. Without my family, I really don’t know what I would have done but, together, we made it through.

Laura and her family enjoy their quality time together

Today, I am no longer afraid of what the future holds. I am stronger and more appreciative for my second chance at life and all the gifts it brings. When writing my donor family after my transplant, I really didn’t know what to say. It is true when said that sometimes words are just not enough to express your true gratitude and appreciation for the beautiful, miraculous second chance you are given. I knew, no matter what, I had to say thank you in some way. I just wish they could see me now! My family and I are able to vacation to Florida, and my husband and I enjoying golf together. Most importantly, I have the incredible opportunity to see my boys grow into young men and develop the same chivalry and kindness that my husband shows towards me.

My transplant anniversary is an emotional day for my family. It is full of happiness and hope for the future. I realize that you cannot take life for granted, that is why it is so important to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. You could give someone that new life and hope for the future like I have. Life is so precious both on the giving and receiving side. For my family and me, it has been a good ride. I am so, so blessed.

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