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Meet our 2021 National Cuisine for a Cause LIVEr Champion, Sophie

Imagine receiving three difficult diagnoses at the age of three – primary sclerosing cholangitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and Crohn’s disease. At the age of 11, after increasing lab trends, I was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant. With a low Pediatric End-Stage Liver Disease (PELD) score, we knew my case would not be prioritized. After a year on the wait list, my liver team and I started exploring the option of a living-donor liver transplant. Dozens of family, friends, and even strangers were willing to donate part of their liver, but none were the right match. Over the next few years, my symptoms worsened as my liver deteriorated.

On December 30, 2017, after over four years on the waiting list, the long-awaited call came that a liver was available. My transplant surgery began just before midnight on New Year’s Eve. That night, my surgeons saved two lives by performing a split-liver transplant – the liver was split and shared between a 21-month-old boy and me.

After my transplant, I endured one additional surgery and spent two weeks in the hospital before coming home. The year post-transplant was difficult and not without complications, but because of my donor and their family’s selfless decision, I am healthy.

My personal experiences in the medical field inspired me to pursue a career in medicine and I am currently a pre-med student at the University of Utah, studying biology and conducting pediatric clinical research. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity – my donor gave me the chance to plan for the future and to accomplish goals I once never dreamed possible.

The continuous support of the liver community and my liver team helped me during the long wait for a transplant and the difficult post-transplant recovery.  I am incredibly honored and grateful to give back to this amazing community by volunteering, advocating, and raising awareness for organ donation and liver disease. The individual and collective efforts of all of us – patients, doctors, nurses, supporters, researchers, families, caregivers, and volunteers – are essential to achieve the American Liver Foundation’s mission to end liver disease.

Click here to make a donation on behalf of Sophie.


2021 Local Liver ChampioNS

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Baron Tisthammer

My name is Baron Tisthammer. I’m a patient advocate that works in specialty pharmacy. I spend my free time reading non-fiction and staying caught up on the latest movie.

I first became involved with the American Liver Foundation by accident. I do not entirely remember how, but my coworker and I formed a team for the local walk. It was exciting. The entire experience was life-changing. I got to meet so many people that had different life experiences related to liver disease. It made me want to get more involved with the ALF and help them achieve their vision of a world without liver disease.

Click here to read Baron's full story. 

 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Theodore Hutchinson 

Theodore had just turned 7 months old when he was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a rare solid tumor on his liver. He has a slight physical condition that we brought to our pediatrician’s attention and it was her diligence that allowed for us to go through the proper channels to discover his unfortunate diagnosis. We weren’t even remotely prepared, none of us were. But when someone tells you your first child has cancer at only 7 months old, all you can do is face it and do everything in your power to get up and face each day being strong for your own sake and for the sake of your baby. There is no other choice but to take on each challenge as it comes. And in Theodore’s case, they came often.

Click here to read Theodore's full story. 

Caitlin Balint

I was in my senior year of high school, when I was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. I was
17 years old. I originally went to the doctors because of a knee injury and he was concerned with
all the bruising I had on my legs from playing soccer. He sent me for bloodwork and from there
it was a series of tests until they figured out what was wrong with me. I thought they were crazy,
because I felt fine and was upset I could no longer play soccer.

Click here to read Caitlin's full story. 

Todd Zody

Todd Zody and his family have the hearts of teachers. Todd, 65, spent 25 years as a special education teacher and high school administrator. His daughter, also a special education teacher, works with autistic children and his wife is the director for a preschool.

About 11 years ago, Todd’s physicians at Kaiser Permanente in Denver diagnosed him with a rare liver and bile duct disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or PSC. While it is possible to live for some time with the condition, there is no definitive treatment outside of liver transplant.

Click here to read Todd's full story.