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Donna – Liver Recipient

Donna J. Bias
Liver Recipient – 09/11/1994

My transplant story began when I had severe itching all over my body. I had spent hundreds of dollars on creams, gels and Benadryl but nothing helped. One weekend the itching was so bad that I decided to go to a walk-in clinic. They didn’t have a diagnosis and told me to see a dermatologist. Instead, I went to see my regular medical doctor. I explained my problem, and he took one look at me, and said you are going to the hospital.

At the exam, he noticed my eyes were yellow and suggested a gallbladder problem or a blocked bile duct. Right away, lab results showed elevated liver numbers. That same week, a liver biopsy confirmed Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.

There is no known cause or cure for this disease except for a transplant. I had never heard of a liver transplant and knew very little about organ donation. A specialist was called in, and on my 25th wedding anniversary in 1991, he told me I had approximately two years to live. What a shock since I didn’t even know I was sick and never drank alcohol or used non-prescription drugs.

During the three years I waited for a liver transplant, I had bloodwork every week and transfusions due to the platelets being eaten up in the spleen. My spleen became the size of a football. The severe itching continued due to the liver being unable to filter out the bile. Just wearing clothes made the itching unbearable. There was fatigue like you can’t imagine and I wanted to stay in bed 24 hours a day.

At that time, there was little awareness about organ donation. So for three years, we made the five-hour, one-way trips nearly every other month to the transplant center in Pittsburgh. During the Labor Day weekend in 1994, I was admitted to the hospital in Pittsburgh for testing on another problem. While there, they did triple the number of liver transplants due to the holiday travel accidents, but there was no liver for me. Either it was not my size, blood type or the fact that others needed the transplant more than me. A few days later, I was told I was a back-up for a liver. If the person was too ill to have the transplant, I would be next in line. Fortunately for that person, he or she became well enough for the transplant. Then I was told another liver was on its way, but again someone else needed it more than I did. Finally, the third time is a charm (or was it?)! The liver had been lacerated during the removal process, but since it was a large liver and just the one I needed, my surgeon decided to repair it the best he could. The transplant went well except for some bleeding problems due to the lacerations. There has been no further treatment to the liver since that time 24 years ago!

Words cannot express the gratitude I have for my organ donor and her family. While recovering from my transplant, my daughter was making wedding plans. She insisted I go with her to pick out a wedding dress. I didn’t care what dress she picked as long as she was happy. If not for my organ donor, and the grace of God, I would not have been there which was important to her. Also, I have been able to enjoy my 10 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and 2 on the way in 2019. For a number of years, I served as coordinator for the Tri-State Transplant Support Group in Huntington, W.Va., and volunteer for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. I feel a debt of gratitude to help spread the word for organ donation. I was blessed to receive a life-saving transplant and others should have this opportunity too.