Written by Nicole Romine, Liver Transplant Recipient
I had been a healthy person for my entire 26 years of life. A few months after Aaron, my first child, was born in 2014, I began to notice I wasn’t quite myself. My stomach was constantly upset and I couldn’t get through a day without feeling queasy. My eyes and skin turned yellow. I was worried, but I had no idea then that I was beginning a journey that would completely change my life. Over the course of a few weeks, I went to doctors and specialists and had so many tests run that I lost count. Day by day my health continued to decline, and just ten days before Christmas I was admitted into the ER.
The doctor pulled my mom aside to talk with her and I will never forget the look of terror on her face when she came back into the room. I was in acute liver failure. Something I would later come to find out was caused by an autoimmune disease that I wasn’t aware of.
Upon diagnosis, I was immediately transferred to UT Southwestern Medical Center and was put on the transplant waiting list. By almost midnight, my condition had worsened so much that I was moved to the top of the waiting list. I was going downhill fast and it wouldn’t be long before my other organs started to fail. It was 2:30 pm when we got “The Call.” A matching liver had been found for me after only 15 hours on the wait list. God was looking out for me that day. And, somewhere in Texas, the family of a 50 year old woman were grieving the heartbreaking loss of their loved one who had given me that lifesaving second chance.
Most of what happened right before the transplant is a blur to me. There was a woman working at the hospital who reminded me of my grandmother who had passed away years before; I recall asking her to promise me that I would see my son again. I remember a few things from the days right after the transplant. Getting off the ventilator. Craving ice chips. People holding my hand. Seeing my incision for the first time and thinking it looked like a peace sign.
Four days after my transplant, I began walking with a walker. Three days after that, I could walk a little ways on my own. And, one week into the New Year, I got to go home and see my son for the first time in weeks.
I am so blessed to be here today. Every day I wake up and thank God each day and for the strength of my family and friends who have been my rock through this. I'm healthier now than ever – my labs are stable and I'm counting down the days to celebrate my First Transplant-iversary.
Not a moment goes by that my heart doesn't hurt for the family of my donor. She is always on my mind and in my heart. I wouldn't be here today to be a mommy to my son if it wasn't for her decision to be an organ donor. She saved me. I pray daily that her family decide to contact me but I respect their decision. I do things now with a different outlook. I'm excited for the future and try to savor every moment of my life. Because of my organ donor, I'm alive today. Bless her. Bless her family.
Nicole was born and raised in North Texas. She enjoyed an awesome childhood in the country and she loves animals. God and Family are everything to her. She met her husband in high school when she was 14. He spent 8 years in the army and separated after three deployments and a Purple Heart. She received her BS in Animal Science in 2013. Their son Aaron was born in July 2014 and they currently reside in Justin, TX. In about three weeks she went from feeling sick to acute liver failure. She now knows the cause was autoimmune hepatitis. She is doing great and thriving one year post transplant!