On Memorial Day 2022, Sarah Nelson’s 16-year-old grandson noticed something strange about her eyes as she made breakfast.
“Grandma, your eyes look yellow,” he said.
When more people started commenting on the pigment, Sarah and her husband decided to visit a local emergency room to find out what was going on. After receiving IV fluids, Sarah was released. After a trip to her primary care provider, she was advised that her symptoms were likely due to fatty liver disease and would go away on their own.
However, a week later, Sarah’s daughter, Mamie, noticed that her mother was exhibiting symptoms of dementia.
“That’s the only way I could describe it. She didn’t really know who I was. Sometimes she didn’t know who she was or where she was,” said Mamie.
This prompted the family to seek further medical attention at Methodist University Hospital, known for its specialists in transplants. After conducting some tests, the hospital delivered the devastating news that Sarah was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and needed to start the process of qualifying for a transplant.
The Start of Sarah’s Transplant Journey
The family was shocked.
“We said, ‘No, we don’t think she needs a new liver. What are you talking about?’” said Mamie. “We were just ignorant about everything having to do with transplants.”
However, the staff at Methodist University Hospital provided them with the support they needed, not just for Sarah but for the whole family. They comforted Mamie and provided Sarah with the best possible care.
As Sarah proceeded through her work-up, she faced a rough summer. Her husband had to work out of town, so Sarah moved in with her daughter for around-the-clock care. Mamie turned to the grandkids to help Sarah stay motivated to fight her disease.
“I have three small children, and my youngest is 3 years old now... My brother’s youngest is two. And I said, ‘My daughter will have no memory of you. The little ones will have no memory of you. You have too much light and life for them not to have a grandmother. You have to fight. You have to keep going,’” said Mamie.
Despite the hardships, Sarah persevered. After Labor Day, she was officially listed to receive a transplant, and then she just had to wait for the right organ. Unfortunately, Halloween brought another wave of health hurdles for her. Her ammonia levels skyrocketed, forcing her to be hospitalized. But on November 16th, the tides would change in her favor - a life-saving liver was available.
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Transplant – A Second Chance at Life
“The journey before the transplant was harder for me than it was after I had the transplant,” said Sarah. “It was a hard, hard journey, but Methodist made it as smooth sailing as they possibly could for me. If you need somebody to hold your hand – they're in there. They have a million things to do, but they make you feel like you’re the only one there... They’re just unbelievable. They're the most wonderful medical staff that’s taken care of me.”
Mamie said, “How fortunate are we to have such a wonderful hospital and institute that is 20 minutes from my home? We don’t have to travel far for great healthcare. It’s right here at our fingertips.”
“That was a miracle in itself. It was so convenient,” said Sarah.
Sarah recently celebrated two milestones: three months post-transplant and another birthday.
“We celebrated by going to a restaurant. It’s the first time I’ve been to a restaurant in a long time... and we just had the best time,” said Sarah.
She's now looking forward to living her life to the fullest and spending more time with her family.
Transplant – Learn More about Your Options
The Methodist Transplant Institute performs multiple types of transplantation procedures including: kidney, liver and pancreas transplants. If you are interested in learning more about our program and the dedicated surgeons and staff members committed to serving your needs, get in touch today!