In some ways this part of my story is the easiest for me to write. Mainly because this part of the story isn’t really mine, mine begins later. This part of my story belongs to my friends who cried at my bedside. This part of my story belongs to our church family that surrounded my parents in the most desperate moments of their lives. This part of the story belongs to strangers who prayed for me all over the country without knowing who I was. But mostly this part of my story belongs to my dad, my mom and my sister. It’s a story of tears, strength, surrender and hope.
I mentioned in my last post that I graduated from high school early and went to serve with YWAM in Los Angeles. I had gotten home late June and going to start college in the fall. Last minute I had gotten a job at a YMCA camp. I was a lifeguard.
Before I go further, let me pause and explain about my relationship with the sun at this point. I LOVED getting sunburnt. I loved the feeling of lying in bed at night with the heat radiating off my back. I had just spend the last six months in California, Mexico and Belize. On top of that, since arriving home, I had spent my days in the sun as a lifeguard. I could probably pass as someone from Central America. This is relevant, I promise.
I woke up one day in early August with a stomach ache. Over the years I have tried to remember what made this particular stomach ache different from any other. All I know is that It was different enough that I called in sick and went to the doctor. The doctor told me that I was constipated-great! I had the rest of the day off so I went to visit a friend. The details at this point start to get a bit fuzzy. I’ve been told that at this point my liver had begun to shut down and I was slowly putting myself in a coma. I drove home early that night because I didn’t feel good.
I kept getting sicker over the weekend. I honestly don’t remember if I threw up, had a fever or just stuck in bed. On Sunday, I decided I needed to get out of the house-I had to go back to work on Monday. I went to my grandma’s. When I walked in the door, she said “Lisa, your eyes are yellow.” At this point in my life jaundice was not a word I had ever heard before. So it was just “yellow”. (This is where the fact that I was super tan becomes important to remember). I went into her bathroom, pulled up my shirt-she was right. Not only were my eyes yellow, my skin was yellow too. You see, I was so tan that I didn’t notice how yellow my skin was. I quickly learned, you don’t want yellow skin.
I went back to the doctor and this time you could say they took a better look. They told me that I had Hepatitis A, which I could have easily gotten from my trip to Belize and Mexico.
I remember nothing from this point forward.
Hepatitis A runs its course. It’s painful and awful, but you can recover from it. So the next day I began going to my doctor to get certain shots that were supposed to help. Quickly I was too weak to even get out of the car.
So I went to the hospital. Why I wasn’t there already is beyond me…I regress.
I was putting myself in a coma. They didn’t know it yet, but my liver was shutting down. Apparently, they didn’t want me to go into a coma-so they kept trying to keep me awake. It didn’t work. I REALLY wish that I could tell you that when I was in a coma I went to heaven and God said something like “It’s not your time yet, I’m sending you back.” It would have been awesome to have a sneak peek into eternity. I didn’t. I actually don’t remember a thing.
There are so many stories that I have heard over the years about what happened during those 4 days (stayed tuned for the next blog post). But I know this, there was A LOT OF PRAYER!
So I didn’t have hepatitis A after all, I had acute liver failure. The reason that I went into a coma is that my liver stopped working: completely, totally, fully. And just so you know, it’s an important organ. You can’t live very long without your liver. In fact, maybe a few days. I had a few days, we were cutting it close.
Because I was in hours of death, my name went to the top of the list for transplants in the upper Midwest. BUT…thousands of people die each day waiting for organs. So people came. People came to pray. People came to cry. People came and brought food. More food. More tears. More prayer. People came to say goodbye.
Like a small child that wants to hear the same bedtime story over and over, I love to hear certain parts of my story. This is one of my favorites. My mom was in the room, rubbing my feet when the doctor came in. He started looking at my stomach and finally looked at my mom and said “I think we can shove it in there.” I can just imagine the look she gave him. “What? We will not be shoving anything in anywhere!”
Well they shoved it in. In the last hours of my life, a woman named Cheri died in a car accident. Her family courageously decided to donate her organs to save the lives of others.
(Cheri with her dogs.)
On August 13th, 2000 in the last hours of life I received a lifesaving liver transplant.