Jean Willis, a Kiwanian, spoke to the membership about the process she went through to receive a new liver. Jean, a native of Valparaiso, Indiana and met her husband, David, while working at Valparaiso University. They moved to Greenfield in 1953. In 1993, they moved to Florida where Jean was diagnosed as having Auto Immune Hepatitis, a disease that causes a person’s immune system to attack their liver.
Jean was treated and observed for several years by her doctors in Florida until in 2001 she experienced an unusually low level of energy. After discussions with her doctor she sought help at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. She was first seen by the liver specialist in July, 2001. The specialist asked permission to place her name before the transplant committee. She was placed on the transplant list in August. Normally the wait list for a liver is a long process but they must match blood type and the size of the person. Jean is A Positive blood type, which is relatively rare and therefore her list was shorter. On September 12, 2001, she received the beeper that would summon her to the hospital when a liver became available. On November 9, 2001 she was called to the hospital and she received her new liver in the early morning of November 10.
Jean was in the hospital for 5 days and remained near the hospital for 3 weeks. She had several dietary restrictions for the first six months in addition to not being allowed to have any live plants in her home. She currently takes two doses of anti-rejection medicine daily and has her blood tested monthly.
Jean urged members to consider becoming a donor citing statistics about the number of people who receive donations and the number who die each day awaiting donations. Jean learned that her donor had been a 19 year old who died in a single car crash. The liver had been the only usable organ. Contact your local license branch to indicate that you would like to be listed as a donor or your driver’s license.
Photo: Jean Willis, Liver Transplant recipient and Greenfield Kiwanian