What am I, chopped liver?

Post date: Apr 3, 2012 1:14:51 PM

April is National Donate Life Month. You'll be hearing more from me on this topic (more than you already do) all month long!

Yes I am.

7 years ago I had a choice. I could continue to watch my 17 month old baby girl die or I could give her part of my liver. Not really much of a choice, really. “Sure doc, put me under, cut me open, break a rib or two, and give my kiddo part of my liver. I’ve had a good 27.5 years on this planet.” That’s kind of where my head was at. I was ready to die for her.

My hubsters wasn’t a match. Blood type was all wrong. It crushed him. I know that he wanted to be the one. He wanted to spare me the agony and pain I would face. He’s always been the knight in shining armor on a white horse type. My brother wasn’t a match either. He was only 18 (almost 19) at the time, but he too wanted to be the one to save her. He wanted to so badly and then “they” (transplant doctors) found an arterial anomaly or some such thing. My sisters wanted to too, but Amy had just had a baby and Mandy was in Iraq. And then there was one. Me.

Even at her sickest, she still only scored a PELD of 11. Transplant scoring is a complicated, complex process. And in the end it ensures fairness, but it still sucks. And there she was with her PELD of 11, and there were 86,000+ people waiting for a transplant. (Today, there are 113,620 very sick people waiting for a donor). Some wait for a kidney, others lungs, or a heart. All wait for life. They are all waiting for their own life.

Before my daughter needed a new liver, the only person that I had ever heard of waiting for an organ was Walter Payton, beloved running back of the Chicago Bears. I cried the day he died. He spent his final months as a transplant advocate. And that was about as much as I knew about organ transplants. Before then, I thought that the only people that needed a new liver drank their other one away. I came from a long line of alcoholics, it’s what I knew. And I was wrong.

Our daughter was born with Biliary Atresia. No one knows what causes it. No one is sure why in some babies the biliary tracts in their livers spontaneously (usually at birth) shrivel up and quit. I tried to have her for 3 years, so during my pregnancy I didn’t drink alcohol, or pop, I ate right, I didn’t smoke, I did all the “right” things, and yet, she still needed a new liver. I was seriously pissed about this for a very long time.

What was the transplant like? My husband had it the worst. He darted back and forth between the two hospitals; worried about his beloved girls. As for me, the pain was incredible. I have never experienced anything like it. I can’t tolerate pain meds (not even during child birth) and I released myself after 48 hours in the hospital. I imagine the pain would have been less if I would have taken something for it, but I was trying to concentrate on my child’s care. And my daughter, she had her share of complications, but 7 years later you wouldn't know it. You would not guess that this is the face of a child, that was once given a week to live and placed on “Status 1” (transplant speak for less than a week to live).

So why did I donate? There is a serious deficiency of Organ Donors out there. It’s hard for people to give up the organs of their loved ones. I get that. I understand the fight to want to save the life of a loved one. I don’t know the pain of losing mine. A pain I refuse to imagine. And that’s why I know that I would donate again; I would do it again in a heartbeat.