UCH Supports Staff Members through Liver Transplant

MaryJane, liver transplant recipient

On Aug. 27, MaryJane received a clean bill of health from doctors at her 11-year checkup after receiving a liver transplant.

In 1997, MaryJane was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and eventually led to cirrhosis. In 2000, doctors told MaryJane she would need a liver transplant, but she waited another seven years before receiving the gift of life.

MaryJane is a former housing manager and the current service coordinator at the Immokalee property, while Mitch serves as maintenance director. Throughout MaryJane’s health journey, UCH has provided support and love to the couple.

When MaryJane was first diagnosed with Hepatitis C, she started walking at least 5 miles every day. She lost weight, going from about 250 pounds to 130 today.

“They told me that, for my transplant, I would have to be in pretty good shape or I might not get it,” MaryJane said.

MaryJane in the hospital recovering from a liver transplantThe last six months before the transplant were the hardest on MaryJane’s body and spirit.

“I was still in good health, but I was taking pills for water retention because my liver wasn’t working at 100 percent,” she said.

Two weeks before the scheduled transplant, MaryJane boarded a small plane that would take her from Painesville to Jacksonville, Florida. Angel Flight Southeast, an organization that flies patients to life-saving medical treatment, had donated travel expenses. But minutes after boarding the plane, MaryJane received devastating news — she had an infection that would keep her from receiving a new liver.

After seven months, on July 6, 2007, MaryJane finally received her transplant. One anti-rejection medication caused MaryJane to be nonresponsive for almost a month, and doctors told Mitch that MaryJane was in a coma.

MaryJane and Mitch“It’s very tough on a person and the people who are around you,” Mitch said. “The last four to five months before the transplant, she would have to go get water removed from her abdomen twice a week. They would risk an infection every time they put a needle into her belly. Her liver was almost nonexistent.”

Throughout the transplant and healing process, UCH has been supportive of MaryJane and Mitch, who have been together 29 years.

MaryJane said she is thankful someone chose to give the gift of life.

“Through an act of selflessness, several people are walking around today because that one person decided to donate,” Mitch said. “That made me become a donor.”