My new liver, a miracle of life

I was diagnosed with chronic autoimmune hepatitis in 1988 when I was 14 years old. 

 As a child I was on bedrest, took the pills my doctors prescribed, and learned about my disease at the Francis Liver Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. I really managed well when I was young. I was able to competitively row, compete in high school running, play ice hockey and just act and live like a fairly normal teenager. 

Then I reached my 20s and graduated from the University of Victoria Kinesiology program. I was married at 26 years old and went back to school to become a registered nurse through. My husband and I wanted to have children and at that time we moved to Michigan. I was with my doctor for 6 years at the University of Michigan Liver clinic. I was on cellcept and tacrolimus and wanted to have a child so I was put on Imuran to reduce the risk of birth defects. In 2004 I had a healthy boy - only complication was gestational diabetes. Then my husband and I moved to the Netherlands for his job for 6 years. We wanted one more child and I was able to deliver a healthy baby girl in 2007. During and after my daughter's birth I developed complications including bleeding esophageal varicies, rectal bleeding episodes, and ascites. I delivered my daughter early by 6 weeks since I had developed a high fever and had to be induced. After my daughter's birth, I developed spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and stayed in the hospital in the Netherlands for 2 weeks to treat this SBP. My liver really took a hit from my pregnancy. Many medications had to be increased and I generally felt unwell after her birth for years. 

In the summer of 2011, we moved back to Canada. I was in the hospital with high fevers for two weeks during the summer of 2012 and the ironic thing was, I was a patient on the floor I work on -- I am a registered nurse in an inpatient cardiac unit. My liver never really recovered from those high fevers and the cause was unknown. I developed ascities and had to take diuretics, my liver enzymes were not in full control, and my platelets became low. Then the real hit came. I had called my hepatologist at Toronto Western the week of July 2. I kept having bouts of diarrhea and more ascities and was feeling tired and more and more unwell. My hepatologist did a tap and in office on July 9 and drained 800 ml of fluid. I am of a smaller size and that was a lot of fluid. Then the morning of July 10 he called to tell me the peritoneal fluid was infected with e.coli and I should go to the hospital for IV antibiotics. I went to St. Mary's in Kitchener and immediately began my IV antibiotics. My blood cultures and urine also came back as positive for e.coli. My INR, liver enzymes, and bilirubin climbed very high and the doctor treating me said I needed to get to Toronto General as my liver was quickly failing. On Wed July 17, I was transferred to Toronto General and seen by the transplant team and was put on the waiting list on July 19. I was put on the top of the list for my blood group in Ontario. The transplant doctor told me there was a possible liver available for July 20. My family came to see me - my parents, husband, kids, one of my brothers, and my sister and brother-in-law.

Surgery was to be for 3 pm but then the doctor delivered the news that surgery was a no go, the liver was not good. I was sad, but knew this could happen.  On the evening of July 20, the transplant doctor told me there was another possible donor that had just came in and that I would be told in the morning if surgery was a go. I didn't sleep all night and was so anxious. I just felt this was the day for the new liver. My Mom felt it too.

I went to the OR at 8 am and I got to see the new liver (not something most patients get to see). The staff were amazing at prepping me in the OR. My Mom arrived later in the morning to receive reports of my progress and speak with the surgeon afterwards. I don't remember much about my stay in the ICU after surgery. But the really significant thing about receiving a new liver on July 21st was that it was the day of my daughter's 6th birthday. It could have been any other day, but it ended up on her birthday -- a new liver and a new miracle on a special July 21st. I was also touched that my Nana (who passed away recently) said my name the next day after surgery. She and I were always close and I feel she has been my guardian angel through this and arranged everything. I am doing so well and only 4 days post op liver transplant. My heart goes out to the family members and friends of the donor who have lost their special someone in order for me to receive his/her liver. I am not sure if I will ever learn who my donor is but I am so pleased to know that this new liver has been made possible because of such a kind and and generous gift. I can continue being a Mmom and raise my kids and be with my family and friends. I have so much to be thankful for and want to live a long full life.
Christine, Kitchener Ontario