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My story begins in the Fall of 1980, when at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition in which the patient’s own immune system attacks the liver causing inflammation and liver cell death. This condition is chronic and progressive. The next two years were a series of monthly clinic appointments, a strict no-salt diet, liver biopsies, and a regime of steroid treatment. I thought this routine would continue for the rest of my life. However, two years later, in the Fall of 1982, I was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital with ascites (build-up of fluid in my abdomen). A liver biopsy confirmed the hepatitis had completely destroyed my liver. My only alternative would be a liver transplant. There had not been a successful liver transplant performed in Canada yet; however, I did hear of one successful liver transplant in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Dr. Thomas Starzl had successfully transplanted a two-year-old child.
At that time, I was under the care of Dr. David Lloyd, a gastroenterologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital, London. He told me of a young surgeon who was trained to do transplants right here in this city. An appointment was set for me to be assessed. In late October, I met with Dr. Wall at University Hospital. Shortly after that appointment, I was hospitalized for transplant assessment. I was deemed an excellent candidate, in that all my other organs were in excellent condition, and it was only my liver that had failed to this point.
My transplant took place on the day I was going to be discharged home. After my transplant there were many challenges for Dr. Wall. I think every complication that could arise, did arise. The most serious complication occurred one week into my recovery. A blood clot developed in the main artery that supplies blood to the liver. I was rushed to the operating room for surgery to bypass this blood clot, but unfortunately my new liver had already sustained damage. Over the next couple of days my condition became so unstable; my name went to the top of the waiting list in North America for a new liver. Thankfully a liver became available and two days later, I received my second transplant. Three major surgeries in the span of ten days set back my recovery substantially. In total, my hospital stay was 120 days.
In mid-February 1983, I was discharged home. It was a brief visit and 12 hours later I was rushed back to hospital with a high fever, projectile vomiting and severe abdominal pains. My fourth surgery… the removal of my gall bladder, took place later the next day. Finally, in early March of 1983, thanks to the constant love and support of my family, the many prayers, the care and dedication of all the staff who looked after me, I was discharged home, this time for good.
In the past 23 years, I have met so many amazing people and seen so many wonderful things… I couldn’t possibly list them all.
I have witnessed my nieces and nephews grow into young adults, thankful to be a part of their lives and celebrate in each of their accomplishments.
After my transplant I returned to work at LHSC as a Medical Radiation Technologist in the Radiology department and currently enjoy working with the Cardiac Care Team. Most of all, I would like to thank all of our Donor Families. How can I adequately express my gratitude for the lifetime of memories I have experienced since my transplant… there are no words.