Toni's Story - My Second Chance at Life

Toni-liver-transplantWithout the transplant team at MUH and a life-saving gift from a complete stranger, Toni says she would not be here today.

In 1989, at the age of 18 Toni donated blood for the first time. Shortly thereafter, she received a letter from Lifeblood notifying her that something was wrong. She immediately went to her doctor and began a long journey of looking for answers.

“By 1991, we still didn’t have an answer, and by then, I was yellow and very sick,” said Toni. “After a week in the hospital, the doctors diagnosed me with Autoimmune Hepatitis. It’s where your body attacks your liver. It happens
to 1 in 100,000 people -- and I was the one.”

Toni joined the Methodist Transplant family, knowing one day she would need a transplant. She graduated college, joined the workforce, and recently celebrated 20 years working special events and community relations for Nike. “My husband and I married in August 2014 with our eyes wide open knowing what was ahead. During the years leading up to my transplant, I tried to prepare for what I knew would happen. No matter how much I prepared, being faced with it was completely different.”

“Things were kept under control until January 2014 when the meds I was taking couldn’t stop the progression of my disease,” Toni recalls. “I knew my ‘one day’ had come.” In April 2015, Toni was listed for a transplant. Each day was a struggle to overcome severe exhaustion and fatigue that challenged Toni to perform daily routines. Twice a week Toni had fluid drained from her lungs and abdomen- one liter from the right lung and 4-5 pounds of fluid from her abdomen.

“Needless to say, it was a very tumultuous time. Every week I’d find out where I was on the list in hopes this would be THE week. Friends who knew what was going on would ask how they could help, and I would say, ‘Pray, make sure you’re an organ donor and donate blood.’ There was nothing more anyone could do.” At 9:30 p.m. on August 16, Toni received the call, and on the morning of August 17, 2015, she received the greatest gift imaginable: a new liver. “Without someone making that decision to become an organ donor, I would not be here today.”

Just two weeks after her surgery, Toni went to her first post-transplant checkup. She recalls, “I asked my nurse, ‘Am I supposed to feel this good?’ And she said, ‘Yes. It’s the way the rest of us feel.’ I hadn’t felt that good in at least 10 years. And that was just 2 weeks after major surgery. I had been so sick for so long, I really didn’t know what good felt like.” Toni doesn’t take this second chance at life lightly. “I don’t know if my friends and family are ready for Toni 2.0, but I plan to live every day with purpose, to appreciate and take care of this extraordinary gift I have been given, and to make people aware of the importance of organ donation.”

She goes on to say, “Saying I am thankful does not begin to express my feelings. The words pale in comparison to how I feel. The team at Methodist University Hospital gave me life again. Literally.”