In 2017, I began blogging through my journey as a liver donor. My story proved helpful for several potential new liver donors over the years. I’ve been able to chat on the phone with others in various stages of the transplant journey and help them walk through their concerns and their plans. It’s always an honor to hear someone’s story and I’m always happy to connect with someone who has questions about mine.
Since I’ve moved my blog a few times, I felt it was time to revisit my posts about being a living liver donor. I’ve cleaned them up a bit and am reposting them in a more organized format. You can use the sidebar links to read through each post, chronologically. Bookmark this page if you like. I’ll also be compiling the whole series into a downloadable pdf for those who’d prefer to read it that way.
So, let’s see. Where do I start? Oh yes.
February 2nd, 2017:
I saw an odd post from a relative on Facebook; a picture of a typed out letter. Normally I would’ve dismissed it as some share-me-or-else meme, but something made me read it.
It was a letter from my 1st cousin, once removed (my adoptive parent’s generation). She was writing about her son (my 2nd cousin) who was just a few years older than I. Apparently, his liver is failing (primary sclerosing cholangitis) and it is only a matter of time. He doesn’t have a high enough MELD score to get a cadaver liver.
She explained in her letter that they needed someone with Type O blood, between 18 and 65, and really healthy. The had already reached out to the immediate family and friends and hadn’t found a match. This letter was a last-ditch effort. She’d sent it to everyone she had an address for in the hopes of saving her son’s life.
I hadn’t gotten a letter and neither had my adoptive mother because this particular cousin didn’t have our current addresses. I only happened to see this letter because someone else posted theirs on Facebook.
She explained, if anyone was willing and able to be a living liver donor, the first step would be filling out a health history questionnaire from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).
To be honest, I didn’t know this side of my adoptive family that well. I’d met my 2nd cousin (the one who needed the liver) only one time a few years prior. We’d had a nice chat. Kept in touch for a while via email. I was so sad to hear he’d been sick for so long. I didn’t even know his mom well enough to feel comfortable calling her for more information.
However, I knew I was a blood type match. I knew I was in excellent health. My firstborn was just turning 1 years old, but I’d been running marathons, coaching CrossFit and eating really clean for years. In First Aid training they often say, when it comes to responding to an emergency, the decision to act is the most difficult step. I decided to learn more about what it meant to be a living donor.
I googled my 2nd cousin’s diagnosis. I searched for living liver donor stories. I didn’t find many. Some were terrifying and some were heart-warming. That’s the internet for you. This video was the most succinct and helpful.
Armed with some idea of what being a liver donor meant, I told J (husband) about my cousin’s situation. I shared what I had learned and that we both met the criteria for being a potential donor. We both decided to fill out the questionnaire. Maybe we could help. Maybe not. Either way, we were willing to find out.
For all the big and crazy things we do in life (running marathons, having kids, donating organs), there is usually a path that led you there that makes sense when you think about it. Thinking on what led me here has really helped me see the providence, find peace and focus on hope.
Our cancer-fighting Honored Teammate, Alessandra (19), passed in 2012.
When I started running it was for a sports charity program, Team in Training. Raise money, run marathons, repeat. The experience brought perspective. The pain of a long run is nothing compared to chemo. Fundraising struggles are nothing compared to medical bills. We gladly endured a little pain and struggle knowing we were helping those fighting for their lives. It was devastating when a fight was lost. Honored teammates like Alessandra and Jamen are not forgotten.
We joined a bone marrow registry. A Be The Match representative came to a training run and collected spit samples. I visualized how I’d proceed if I were found to be a match. I imagined getting that call… or that packet in the mail… or however it works. That’s just how I think. What would I do? I knew that if I ever got the opportunity, it would be an incredible honor to be a donor.
So you see, God’s been preparing my mind and heart for some time. I frequently share how those 4 years with Team In Training transformed my life by turning me into a runner. I’m only now realizing how that experience also prepared me for being a living organ donor, both physically and mentally.