So Many Thanks

by Joyce Rutz

Back in 1982, I was diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis. It happened quite by accident when I went to a dermatologist with a skin condition. As time went by and several tests were done, it was decided that I had a rare liver disease, which mostly women get in their early fifties. It is an autoimmune disease where your liver ducts scar over and cause cirrhosis. I was fortunate and did well for many years. In January of 1992, (after several episodes of liver problems) I was put on the transplant list. I continued to work as a secretary at Albion College in Michigan. I was fortunate to be just 60 miles from the University of Michigan Medical Center where my transplant would be performed.

One lovely fall day (nine months later) after work, my husband and I took off for the nearest shopping mall and did some Christmas shopping. We had the feeling that we should get our shopping done just incase I got the call and had to have my transplant. Well, we shopped, ate dinner, and came home. I was tired but otherwise felt pretty well. About 3 a.m. we were aroused by the phone ringing; it was the transplant office saying that they had a liver for me. We hurried around, made calls, and grabbed my bag, which had been packed for months. Our children met us at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

I was so fortunate to get along so well, just 11 days in the Medical Center. I atribute so much of this to a wonderful husband, a loving family, many, many friends and their prayers. After I felt better, and got back to thinking about life, I wondered about my donor. I began writing to the Gift of Life office and in time they forwarded my letters to my donor family. About a year after we had begun writing, we were given the okay to call each other, then meet each other.

We have a close, loving relationship with this young couple. Jennifer, their darling, vivacious teenager was killed in an automobile accident. I can never thank them enough for their gift of life. Since my transplant I have gone on to live a normal life. Where I was always tired before, now I work full time, have energy to enjoy my grandchildren, and carry on a wonderful life!