My parents knew from the time I was an infant that I would need a transplant. I was born in 1981 with a rare genetic disorder that affected my liver. This was a time before transplantation was common, and my parents did everything they could to keep me healthy.
As a child, I had regular check-ups and my only real limitation was that I couldn’t play contact sports. I was on a very strict organic, low salt diet – before it was popular – and my mom worked very hard to find the best food to keep my liver working properly.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that my condition began to decline. I started to feel sluggish and began retaining water. My liver was shutting down.
Still, I entered my freshman year at Marshall University with high hopes. By that fall I became very sick and learned that it was time to pursue a transplant. I didn’t tell anyone at school, I think I was afraid that admitting it would make it more real.
By January of the following year I had to return home. I was at home, but couldn’t be alone. I had someone with me 24/7. That’s when I realized I was really sick. I was in and out of the hospital often for water retention or issues with my ammonia levels. At one point my ammonia levels became so high that I was in a coma for two days.