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.