Terra battled liver disease for more than 18 years and knew that a liver transplant was her only chance for survival. But after speaking with doctors in her hometown of Los Angeles, she was met with horrible news. She was told she could not receive a liver transplant and that a living-donor liver transplant was not an option.
However, Terra was unwilling to give up. Her search for a transplant center that would handle her case led her across the country to UPMC where she received a lifesaving living-donor liver transplant just a few months later. How did she get through such a challenging and emotional transplant journey? With the help of her family.
“You go through times when you don’t feel as strong as you should. I had days when I felt hopeless, alone, and frightened. But my family was there to raise my spirits and lift me up when I needed it,” Terra says.
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Who is your Support System?
For patients like Terra, having a strong support system during the transplant process is essential. If you are on the transplant waiting list or considering becoming a living donor, make sure you have a team of people to guide and care for you.
- Living-Donor Champion: Your champion may be a friend, family member, co-worker, or anyone else who is willing to provide emotional support while you are waiting for a transplant. He or she can help by taking the lead in finding and securing a suitable living donor.
- Transplant Caregiver: Your caregiver accompanies you to all your pre- and post-transplant appointments. For several weeks after your transplant, you will not be able to drive or lift anything heavy, so you will need a caregiver with you as you recover. Potential transplant recipients must identify a dedicated caregiver prior to being approved for the surgery.
- Family Members and Friends: Family members and friends provide emotional guidance before, during, and after the transplant for you and your caregiver.
The Benefits of Having a Strong Support Team
To ensure that you have support, identify a team of people who can help you with daily tasks before and after your transplant.
“I don’t think I realized how difficult it would be for me to rebuild my strength after my transplant,” Terra says. “I definitely had some dark days, but my family was there to help keep me motivated and to hold my hand when I needed it.”
A transplant support team can help by:
- Transporting you to and from your appointments
- Reminding you to take your required medication
- Performing regular tasks and chores around the house
- Caring for small children
- Keeping you motivated and in good spirits
“You are going to need help,” Terra explains. “And it’s comforting to know that you are not alone.”
A Family Brought Closer Together
Today, Terra and her family are closer than ever. In addition to her living donor, she is grateful to her husband, daughters, father, and entire family for helping her get to what she calls her “new normal.”
“This experience has made us all more grateful for each other and for being in each other’s lives,” she adds. “It has given us a new perspective.”
If you are on the transplant waiting list or considering becoming a living donor, identifying a team to help and support you through the journey is very important. If you have any questions about your support system or who can help, speak to your transplant social worker.
To learn more, visit UPMC.com/Transplant.
About Transplant Services
For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.