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Virginia is for Livers

June 8, 2011

Picture it. It was the summer of 1988. Two awkward fifth grade graduates were at the pool, their moms becoming fast friends. One was too short and flat chested, not having hit the growth spurt yet. The other had a rainbow leopard bathing suit and a fresh, Fantastic Sams perm.

The moms suggested that the two girls talk to each other. Short Girl thought Leopard Perm Girl was a nerd. LPG thought SG was a snob. They were probably both correct. Somehow they reconciled their differences over Trapper Keepers (one hot air balloon, one kitten) at the bus stop on the first day of sixth grade.

After almost 25 years of friendship, saying that we’re close is an understatement. She knows me. I know her. We’ll do anything for one another. Isn’t that how friendship works?

Ashley has since quit perming her hair and I’m not sure she owns anything with animal print on it. She does still let me make fun of her, which I think is one of her best qualities. She has some other redeeming attributes as well. She is very organized, thoughtful and diligent. She takes good care of herself. She’s also incredibly close to her family.

So when her mom, Martha, who has a liver disease and was in end-stage liver failure, needed a liver transplant, Ashley stepped in. Crazy, right? Even crazier was that Ashley was a perfect match.

I was totally flattered when Ashley asked me to go with her for the pre-op testing and evaluation and then for the surgery. She had to meet with social workers, who wanted to be sure that she was of sound mind (questionable!) and wasn’t being coerced (not even close). She passed all of the tests with flying colors, with physicians even remarking about how it couldn’t be more ideal. They were almost giddy about it.

One year ago this week, we made the trip to UVA Medical Center. Surgery was scheduled for the morning of June 3, with Ashley going back first and Martha right behind her. The plan was to remove 60 percent of Ashley’s liver, replacing Martha’s entire diseased one with it. All went accordingly and hours later we got the ahead-of-schedule call that they were stitching Ashley up and that Martha was the proud owner of a new (err, slightly used) liver.

Visiting Martha in the hours after surgery was nothing short of amazing. The whites of her eyes, which had yellowed due to jaundice, were already bright white, providing ample evidence of success. There were certainly normal post-op bumps in the road but both ladies recovered gracefully. Twelve weeks later, Ashley’s liver was completely regenerated.

That brings us to today. Martha continues to thrive, playing tennis each week and she’s even been excused from several of her post-op checkups. Well, she was painting Ashley’s new condo this week and broke her fifth metatarsal. I’m sure she agrees that’s better than a broken liver. I’m not sure Ashley can help with this one.

We often hear reminders to check the organ donor box at the DMV. A victim of a car accident is able to provide several seriously ill people with viable organs. Living donors aren’t nearly as common but are becoming increasingly so. I’ve seen the effects. Sure, there is surgery recovery and whatnot, but Ashley gave her mom such a great thing. Not only did Martha get a second chance at life, but she is healthy.

Donate, people!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashley Hunt permalink
    June 8, 2011 8:47 pm

    🙂 Great job Jenny, I couldn’t have asked for a better advocate! And I got to boss you around for 10 days. That was the best part….well…not the BEST part. So glad mom is doing well a year later!

  2. Mandi permalink
    June 8, 2011 10:07 pm

    Awesome article Jenny. YOu tell the story so well! Love the stroll down memory lane too…I remember those looks like they were yesterday!

  3. Colleen permalink
    June 9, 2011 1:13 pm


  4. Bob Garland, Jr permalink
    June 16, 2011 9:31 pm

    Had this forwarded to me and enjoyed it so much that I read the rest of your columns. Very entertaining!
    (Ashley’s mother’s best friend’s husband:)

  5. Mrs. Langley permalink
    June 19, 2011 12:16 pm

    Jenny, You parlayed that sparkle in your eye and quick wit into VERY entertaining and insightful columns. Thanks for writing about Martha and Ashley – no better topic- and for sharing your insights with the world. I remember you two and Casey at my front door with a rose when a certain pregnancy was announced. I loved watching you grow up! Love, Mrs. L

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