Liver transplant recipient celebrates 20 years

Statesman Journal | Natalie Pate
Karen Paulsen Garcia with husband Dago Garcia, and their sons, Matteus, 1, and Patrick, 9, and daughter Madelyn, 7, attend the UCSF Transplant Picnic at McNear's Beach in San Rafael, California.(Photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice)

Karen Paulsen Garcia wasn't supposed to live past the age of 2.

Garcia was born in 1982 in Livingston, California, with biliary atresia, a rare, life-threatening liver condition that affects newborns. The condition is when the bile ducts inside or outside the liver that allow bile to cleanse the body's organs do not have normal openings. The bile, unable to go through the duct, was poisoning Garcia's liver.

For Garcia this meant having countless surgeries throughout her childhood, living with yellow-toned skin and being thought of as the chronically ill child.

She wanted to dance and was not able to. She remembers, at 8 years old, having to carry a bile bag to school. The bag was external to her body and trapped excess bile.

She did not socialize with other children in elementary school; rather, she made friends with the doctors, nurses and other hospital workers and patients she saw on a regular basis.

At the time, live organ transplants were not common. Continue reading

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