Source: Ladies Home Journal
One January night in 2006, Leiauna Anderson, then 32 and seven months pregnant, had just finished going over the guest list for her upcoming baby shower when she realized she hadn't felt her baby move in a while. "It felt still and weird and wrong," she says.
Her husband, Jeff, was out of town so Anderson drove herself to the hospital, not far from their Los Angeles home. Two nurses probed with a monitor but couldn't find a heartbeat; doctors confirmed that her baby had died. Anderson called her husband and mother with the awful news, and they rushed to the hospital.
Doctors tried inducing labor, but Anderson barely dilated. When her blood pressure suddenly plummeted, they decided to perform an emergency C-section. Screaming in pain, she was rushed into surgery where doctors discovered that a rare pregnancy complication had caused her liver to rupture, spilling two liters of blood into her abdomen. Jeff watched in horror as a doctor lifted her liver to wring out the blood.
Doctors managed to stop the bleeding and remove the fetus, but her condition deteriorated. Her kidneys failed and her eyes showed no response to stimuli. She was transferred to UCLA Medical Center and placed at the top of the transplant list -- after a brain scan showed there was still vital activity.
Within an hour Anderson received a liver with a compatible blood type that was so large that doctors had to wrap her incision with Gore-Tex to keep the liver inside. The imperfect organ saved her life but didn't make her well: Her blood began to thicken and clot, slowing oxygen delivery to her organs. "I was hanging on by a thread," she says.
Three days later a compatible liver became available from the family of a 19-year-old motorcycle accident victim. Doctors performed a second transplant and Anderson improved almost immediately. Before the week was out she had endured eight surgeries; it was another month before she could leave the hospital and begin physical therapy. "I was 32 years old and using a walker," she says. She was also swallowing 50 pills a day -- a mind-boggling contrast to her single daily multivitamin -- and seeing a counselor to deal with grief over her baby's death and the news that future pregnancies could be life-threatening. "I wondered, will I never be a mom?" she says. "It was all I ever wanted."
During Anderson's recovery her brother's wife made an extraordinary offer: She volunteered to be a surrogate once Anderson was well enough to undergo retrieval of her eggs. The Andersons' son, Rex Magnus Anderson, was born in November 2008, nearly three years after the transplant; appropriately, the couple took him home on Thanksgiving Day. "Not only am I lucky enough to be alive, but because of my donor, so is Rex," says Anderson. "I am really blessed."
Organ Donation and the Law
The current crisis in transplants has prompted a spate of new legislation. California passed a law last year creating the first living kidney donor registry in the nation, and a New York legislator has proposed a "presumed consent" bill (similar to many in Europe) that would make his state the first to consider all residents donors unless they have indicated otherwise in writing. Currently, state laws require residents to volunteer to be donors, most commonly on their driver's license. Advocates cite a 2010 study that found that most New Yorkers strongly support organ donation, yet only 13 percent are registered donors. Similar "opt-out" legislation is pending in Illinois and has been proposed in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Sign Me Up!
Are you a designated organ donor? If not, don't wait until it's time to renew your driver's license. Register today by going to donatelife.net and clicking your state for instructions. Or download the free DonateLives app for iPhone.