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Stacey Johnson Hughes-Liver Recipient

The air smelled like Christmas trees. The sky was that beautiful shade of blue that only happens in the fall with fluffy clouds scattered across. The sun was shining brightly, but it was crisp. It was a perfect October day in 2011. My family and I had just hiked to the top of Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park. The hike was almost 4 miles, the last mile being mostly straight up. For 41 and wishing I had lost those 20 pounds before the trip, I was pretty proud of myself.

At that pristine moment, I could have never imagined that six short weeks later I would be fighting for my life in Vanderbilt University Hospital from acute liver failure. Not me – never been sick, never hospitalized except to have my children, never had a chronic illness. How could this have happened? The doctors did not know and still do not know today what caused my body to turn on itself and destroy my liver. My condition progressed rapidly with my first mild symptoms, which I ignored, appearing in early November to being placed in the top position on the regional liver transplant list by December 9 with my family beiStacey and husbandng told that without a transplant, I could not live beyond two weeks. Then, the waiting began.

Thankfully, someone the decision to give their loved one’s organs to others in need in December 2011. Because of that gift, my life and others were saved. I received my transplant on December 15 and I was home with my family by Christmas Eve. Since then, I have had the opportunity to see my son make it to the state soccer championships and make his first college visits. I have watched my daughter master her jump serve in volleyball and make the homecoming court her freshman year. My husband and I have taken long walks on the beach and celebrated 20 years of marriage. I was able to spend the last year of his life with my precious grandfather. And I got to participate in Leadership Kentucky in 2013 and make 55 amazing new friends. For those blessings, I will forever be grateful.

Because of the gift of life that I received, I will work for the rest of my life to bring awareness to organ and tissue donation and advocate for those still waiting. Please say YES and become an organ/tissue donor.