Our daughter, Jennifer, is a 17-year-old junior at Tulare Western High school. Four years ago, she was feeling ill, which was way out of her normal routine.
Then we heard the words that cut like a knife — Liver disease, Stage 4.
After many doctors and finally a referral to the University California, San Francisco, she was placed on the UNIOS Transplant list. After 11 months, we received a call that on July 27, Jennifer was getting a liver donated by a living donor who was giving our daughter half her liver.
As Jennifer was settling into her hospital room, a beautiful woman pulled the curtain back and said, “Hi, I’m Jody!”
We all looked at each other. We didn’t know who she was.
“I’m your donor,” she said as the tears flowed and everyone hugged.
She was like a member of our family. Jody is an amazing woman. The next morning they took both of them into the waiting area. As we prayed, they first took Jody. Then, 20 minutes later, Jennifer was rolled into the operating room.
It was the longest 12 hours of all our lives. The waiting room was filled with Tulare residents, friends, family and people from far away who flew in to support Jody and Jennifer. You could feel all of the love.
We were told that Jody was in recovery. She was awake and talking and asking about Jenn!
Six hours later, Jennifer was in recovery also and doing well. In the ICU we were all allowed to go in to be with her, and she was awake, talking to her brother and us.
As a mom, it was very overwhelming to see my only daughter laying there. I was not sure if it was relief or just terror, but I knew God was with us — I could feel him.
We all took turns staying with Jenn. Of course, her brother, Mike, was hard to pull away from her. As the days went by, Jenn and Jody both recovered so well. On day four, Jody was released. Jennifer was going home the next day.
Then they did one last ultrasound and found out that Jennifer’s hymphatic artery was blocked. She needed a liver as soon as possible. The nightmare began.
She would need to remain in the hospital and wait for another liver.
Fourteen days later, they had a liver. Our family rushed back to San Francisco, and at 4 a.m. they took Jennifer to the O.R. As we stood by her bed in the O.R. waiting area, the surgeon came out to see us.
The liver was no good. It had been damaged in the accident that claimed the donor’s life.
So back to her room with many tears again. Then I was told once again three days later that they were looking into another liver, but it also was not good. I was getting more worried as each day passed.
Then, on Aug. 13 at 7 a.m., Jennifer said, “Mom, you fell asleep and Avo [her grandmother who has passed away] came to see me.” As I held back my tears — Jennifer is very strong in her faith and has never cried yet — she said, “Mom, it’s OK. I’m getting a liver today. Avo told me. And she said you need to calm down, I’m going to be OK.”
I was sure it must be her medications. The transplant doctor came in and said, “We think we have a good liver. Call your family. They are flying to Las Vegas as we speak to look at it.”
I was numb at that point.
Jenn said, “I told you, Mom!!!”
As her brothers and Jody rushed to her side, we learned it was indeed a great liver from a little 13-year-old who passed away in Las Vegas. Her parents wanted to save another child’s life. It took six hours for the transplant operation, and the hospital was so good to us. The staff brought beds into Jennifer’s room for everyone to sleep in, with tons of blankets and pillows.
Not too many of us slept. Then they came and told us Jenn was in the ICU and doing great. During this time, I received many calls from Tulare residents and local school employees asking to say prayers over the phone with us and sending goodie bags to us while we never left her in the hospital alone.
Jennifer is home now and doing well. The point to this whole story is we’ve seen Tulare give so much love to Jennifer, a 17-year-old girl who has so much faith in God above and loves her family and her hometown.
I’m not a great writer, as you can tell, but this is Jennifer’s story.
Thank you, Tulare Western, for the cards and calls and the prayers, and Tulare city schools for giving our family so much support. And to our family, we love you all more than any words can ever say.
— Jennifer’s Mom (Gina Deniz)
via How my daughter got a liver transplant | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com.