February 2014 changed our lives forever. I was only 25 years old and my husband Reid and I had only been married a little over a year and a half. We were healthy and had never dealt with health struggles. However, that was soon to change.
After being admitted to the hospital for a routine gallbladder removal, my surgeon quickly noticed that something was wrong with my liver. After an MRI, it was revealed that I had a liver condition that only one in a million people develop, called Budd Chiari.
I was care-flown from Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and was quickly intubated and placed in a medically induced coma. A bone marrow biopsy revealed that my liver condition was caused from an undiagnosed blood disease. It was determined that my only chance for survival was going to be a complete liver transplant from a deceased donor. I was given 48 hours or less to live if I did not receive the gift of life.
I was put on the transplant list as status 1A and 10 hours later, a miracle came. A healthy liver had become available and it was a match for me.
My husband, Reid, decided to start journaling during that week so I would know every detail of every event that happened which led me to needing a liver transplant as I was in a coma.
During my recovery and rehab journey, Reid and I both felt the call from God that we needed to turn our story into a book. Our mission with our book, DELIVERED Lisa’s Story, is to glorify God and honor my donor, by sharing our transplant journey with others in order to raise awareness about the beauty of organ donation and the gift of life.
We knew that there were many other couples dealing with health struggles, and we wanted to share about the journey we had just traveled. We learned about suffering at a young age. We learned how to care for others going through trials, and most importantly we learned the difference organ donation can make.
“Only a couple of minutes after receiving the final call, Lisa’s transplant surgeons walked into the waiting room. They had this quiet, humble confidence about them. I had not formally met either of them before, but it took everything for me to not run up and wrap my arms around the two of them. They had just aided in giving my wife new life. The assistant surgeon explained to us that Lisa had done great, and the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours were crucial. As they were about to leave, I thanked them and shook both their hands. Hands that had just placed a new, life-giving organ into my wife—a precious gift that a family had willingly given in their deepest sorrow so that someone else could live.” –Chapter 5, DELIVERED Lisa’s Story
My donor was a 15 year old female who passed away in a car accident. I had the incredible opportunity to meet my donor’s parents and extended family and it is the most beautiful relationship. I always say, “The greatest hero I never knew, is my organ donor, Courtney Sterling who saved my life”
My husband being so touched by the gift of life that was given to us through Courtney decided to pass the gift on and became a living kidney donor in December 2018 to a fellow friend and teacher in need. It was a great experience and we are so thankful Reid was able to help improve his friends life through living kidney donation.
One of the greatest gifts that organ donation has granted me is the gift of becoming a Mama to two sweet little boys. We adopted our precious boys in October 2019 from Burundi, Africa. Frank is 7 years old and Blaise is 6 years old. They are the light of our lives. If it was not for my beautiful organ donor, Courtney Sterling saving my life…I would not have been able to grant a new life to Frank and Blaise. The ripple effect of organ donation is so beautiful.
We continue to have the most incredible relationship with my donor’s family. We call Courtney’s parents, our Godparents and now our sweet boys call them MawMaw and PawPaw. Seeing the way they love our boys and continue to welcome us with open arms into their lives is incredible. Our boys adore them and are blessed to have another set of grandparents. It is a relationship all of us never imagined but it is a silver lining to our stories.
I am still a dental hygienist and Reid is a still teacher. Organ donation has allowed us to continue to live our dream careers. I feel like our mission field is where our feet are planted. We have the unique opportunity to share our story with my patients, co-workers, and for Reid, his co-workers, students, and community.
Reid recently had a student email and tell him thank you for sharing his story of living kidney donation and adoption to the middle school students. She went on to say that it opened her mind to the thought of being an organ donor and possibly adopting her own children one day. Again, the ripple effect of donation is so beautiful. I always tell my donor parents that there is no way we will ever know on this side of heaven the amount of lives Courtney impacted and continues to impact by having chosen a selfless yes to being an organ donor.
I believe our stories can change lives. It is an honor to share ours. To help those who are going through a transplant or considering living kidney donation. To bring them comfort that we ourselves received through our journey. Our lives are meant to be lived for the Glory of God and we praise Him for the beauty of this extra time and life that has been granted to our family.
We hope to continue to inspire others to give life and to live life abundantly recognizing how special it is to wake up each day. To live a life that is selfless and loving your neighbors as you love yourself. That is what organ donation is all about.