46 Selfless Gift
Twelve-year-olds usually don't think about death. We think about our friends and shopping.
Unless you need a liver transplant to survive. That was me, almost two years ago. My liver was failing and if I didn't get a new one, I probably wouldn't make it to my 13th birthday. And someone would have to die so I could live.
I'd always been healthy, so it was a huge shock when I was diagnosed with an extremely rare condition called cirrhosis . My liver was so damaged and scarred that it wasn't able to function properly. Prior to that, I'd been having really bad stomachaches, and it turned out that I had a twisted bowel , which required minor surgery. That's when doctors discovered how bad my liver really was. We were told I needed a liver transplant as soon as possible. My name was added to a national list, and the doctors said to expect a call when a liver became available.
I couldn't grasp what was happening to me. I went from a normal,energetic sixth-grader to a girl trapped in my bed, too exhausted to move. As the days passed, I grew weaker and weaker and my skin and the whites of my eyes got really yellow—or jaundiced —a sign of liver failure. I was in and out of the hospital for tests and another surgery. I thought, "When will this ever stop?"
Even though I was scared, I was determined to fight. I had a feeling in my heart that I wasn't supposed to die. Staying strong was a challenge, though. My mom said to think of this as a nightmare that would be over soon. That advice, and the support of my friends, who would visit and call—lifted my spirits. Soon, I was the one reassuring my mom when she got stressed about finding a donor liver. I'd tell her, "I'll get one, Mom. Don't worry!"
And sure enough, at 7:15 a.m. on Nov. 7, 2008, we got the call that a liver was available. I was asleep, and my dad woke me up to tell me. At first, I was kind of mad. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I didn't want another surgery. I was scared and didn't want to get my hopes up and then have it not work out. But I had no choice: I had to get the surgery if I wanted to live.
My surgery took 10 hours, and then I stayed in the hospital for 10 days,hooked up to all sorts of tubes. It was agonizing . I was determined to get out of there and go back to my normal life, but I knew that my body could reject the liver and that's why they had to keep me there.
The surgery sped by in such a blur that I didn't have time to ask where the organ came from. I guess I always imagined that it would be from an old person who'd passed away of natural causes. So when my mom told me that my liver was from a 17-year-old girl, I couldn't believe it.
Kayla Borgerson, my donor, had died in a car accident in a nearby town. When I saw a report about her death on the news, I teared up. Here was this beautiful, young girl who had literally saved my life. My emotions were so mixed up. I was happy to be alive, but I hated knowing that it was because Kayla had died. I kept thinking about Kayla's family … how awful it was to lose her so suddenly.
Months passed, and I grew stronger and healthier by the day. But I couldn't shake the guilt that came along with receiving Kayla's liver—that her life was cut short, while I lived. My mom suggested that we go meet Kayla's family, and I jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to meet the people who helped save my life.
The Borgersons live about 35 miles away. As soon as Kayla's mom saw me, she started crying and so did I. Kayla's younger sister, Katie, who survived the car accident, was sweet and funny. It felt as though I'd always known them. I guess it's because I have a part of Kayla in me. Sometimes I get a weird vibration when I talk about her, as if she's around me, helping me through all of this.
Still, I can't imagine how hard the Borgersons' decision to donate their daughter's liver was. Kayla decided on her own to be an organ donor when she got her driver's license. Her parents could have overridden her decision since she was a minor , but they didn't. That's the only reason I am here today. I am just so grateful for the amazing gift I received.
It is impossible to repay Kayla for what she did for me, but I try to honor her by taking good care of my liver and having as much fun as I can every day.
(By Halley Anderson)