Recovering Health and Sport After a Liver Transplant – Guest Blog by Susan Lawson
My life took a dramatic turn in early 2012. My daughter Megan told me, “I want to do a marathon before I turn 30” and so being fit and feisty we set our sights on the Honolulu marathon, Dec. 6, 2012.
November was bitter in Calgary and my husband David and I went to California to train. Daily runs under the desert sun were invigorating and we reluctantly but necessarily returned to the cold of Calgary. Work was busy and marathon preparation intense. I began to feel fatigued but credited it to the rigors of training.
“You look a little yellow”, said David one evening. “Better get checked out before you leave.”
Blood work revealed that my liver enzymes were off the charts and I was admitted into hospital to expedite further procedures. Tests confirmed that I was experiencing acute liver failure. No cause was determined and therefore no treatment prescribed. Hawaii was cancelled and our family cocooned over Christmas.
The liver is a resilient organ. My excellent health history gave the hepatology team hope that my liver would fight off the attack and begin to regenerate. Blood was taken daily and enzyme levels scrutinized but my condition quickly turned critical. Optimism for recovery waned and I was placed on the national waiting list.
At the end of December the word transplant became part of our family’s lexicon. Due to the scarcity of organs and the rapidity of my decline we were advised to contact friends and family to try and find a matching living donor if possible.
I have an extraordinary family. David and I had been married for 35 years at that time and were blessed with three amazing sons and a strong and creative daughter. Friends and extended family also volunteered to be tested but in the end only Megan was the right match. The race to save my life began.
“The race to save my life began.”
Five days after Megan’s arrival at the Edmonton transplant centre in January 2013, we held hands on separate gurneys, cried tears, whispered encouragements and pushed off from a very different starting line than we had imagined. Eleven hours later we came through the surgery and the process of recovery began.
The reason for my acute fulminant liver failure has never been determined even after a pathological examination of the diseased organ. Whatever the causation it placed me in a position where I was utterly dependent upon a donation for my life. If Megan had not been a match I would most likely have died waiting.
In the last four years I have continued my physical recovery. I will forever depend on immune suppressing medications to keep my body from rejecting this new liver but so far a small piece of my daughter is keeping me alive and I am grateful every single day. Having been an athlete all my life I am striving to regain my strength and stamina and participate in the activities that I love.
In June 2017, David and I will be traveling to Malaga, Spain to participate in the World Transplant Games. The World Transplant Games Federation’s (WTGF) principle aim “is to raise public awareness of the benefits of organ donation by demonstrating the health benefits that can be achieved through physical activities and sport after organ transplantation”. WTGF wishes to educate the public about organ donation principles and to highlight the worldwide shortage of donor organs for transplantation.
It is my hope that by sharing my story and our journey to Malaga that you will come to understand the amazing benefits of organ donation and consider becoming a donor.
Guest blog by Susan Lawson – former co-owner at the clinic and current patient as she trains for the World Transplant Games this summer. We will be sharing a follow up post after Susan competes at the WTG this summer.