|I was born and raised in Cabell County, W.Va., and other than living many years ago for 3 ½ years in Texas I have lived the rest of my life in the Huntington area.
My story never gets old for me but at times when I look back now some of it seems very surreal and I wonder how in the world I got through some of the terribly painful times. There is no question in my mind it was my faith that gave me the strength. Faith is not believing God can, Faith is knowing that God will, and for me I can finish it by saying that He did.
In 1994 through a routine blood test I found that I had PBC, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis. I am sure most if not all of you know that PBC is an autoimmune disease which strikes mostly middle aged ladies. I was 46 at the time.
PBC is a slow progressing disease that really doesn’t have any symptoms to begin with. The doctor prescribed Actigall, a bile acid, and just watched as my numbers grew. It took about 9 years for me to get to the place where it was evident that I would need a liver transplant. The symptoms that had slowly developed were losing weight and less energy, though if you had known me then you were never have guessed it. I was always a person who would rather burnout than rust out so I never slowed down, but I didn’t know how bad I felt until after my transplant when I actually felt good again.
My skin began to change colors. It wasn’t just yellow but it looked like a very ugly colored tan. And then there was the itching. It was the most difficult of all the symptoms for me to handle. The doctor gave me benadryl and atarax but there was no relief. Can you imagine itching all over your body, inside and out, places you couldn’t reach? It was worse than any of the pain I had experienced. There were times I would hold my hands under scalding water because the burn felt better than the itch. Pain is usually localized but the itching was everywhere.
However, even with all this I was still very Blessed. I didn’t experience the high ammonia levels many experience and they warned us about, though I felt my mind was a little cloudy at times. But my disease had progressed to the stage of needing a transplant.
I was referred by my Doctor and personal friend Dr. Florencio Neri of Princeton to Dr. Matulis (a gastro doc) in Charleston. He set up an evaluation for me at the Starzl Institute at UPMC in Pittsburgh. I started the process in January 2005 of having all of the testing done (which was extensive). I traveled to Pittsburgh a couple times for them to complete all the tests. Then on Feb. 3 I got the call.
“Mrs. Bryant we are putting you on the list for a liver transplant”.
I said well where do I fall on the list and she said we are putting you first. I thought there were probably only 3 or 4 on the list (that is how uneducated I was about the process at that time) so I asked her. How many are on the list? She said about 200 hundred. WOW I always wanted to first at something but not on a list to receive a new liver!
I went on living my life as usual. What else can you do? I believe if you spend every day worrying about dying then you aren’t living that day. And you have to remember God is in control. I had faced many tragedies the previous two and a half years and God had gotten me through all of it and He wasn’t going to fail me now. It started in Oct 2002 when my Granddaughter was born at 32 weeks and was in the NICU at Cabell. Four days later my husband was in an explosion which took his life ten days later. Five months later my Father died and now while facing a transplant my Mother was at St. Mary’s Medical Center dying.
I received the call on a Friday and a friend Dr. Ross was flying me to Pittsburgh. Midair they called and said the liver was no good. Then they called again on Sunday Feb 20 about 11:00 pm. I called my friend but it was snowing and he didn’t have any deicer for his airplanes wings. I had remarried Aug 2004 and I told my husband Ken, that maybe I wasn’t supposed to go. He said you have to. It may be your last chance. I called Pittsburgh and they gave us a four-hour window to get there. It usually takes 4 ½ but we made it.
They rushed me in and within a few hours I had received a new lifesaving liver. I was only in ICU until Wednesday. I remember a few things from ICU. I was not a very good patient. On Thursday morning I received the call my Mother had died. I had to get well. With all of the tragedies my family had been through they didn’t need to lose their Mother also.
I believe in allowing me to go through the illness and then Blessing me with a transplant God had work for me to do. We recipients have to come to terms with the fact that someone lost their life in order for us to live. But accidents and dying are a fact of life. Tragedies happen every day. I give God the credit for allowing man the knowledge to take that and turn it into something good by allowing others to live and to live a full meaningful life though Organ Donation and Transplants.