Stacey Ford

Transplant Recipient - Organ

When I was 16 and I got my first drivers license, I immediately checked the box to be an organ donor; never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be a recipient.

Last summer, our daughter was FaceTiming me with our granddaughter and she noticed my eyes were turning yellow. I called my doctor, had blood work done, and was sent to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with acute liver failure presumably caused by a medication I had started the month before.

I was tested and scanned for weeks, but no one could figure out what the cause was or what to do to treat my condition. Thankfully I live in Maryland, so I was eventually transported to Johns Hopkins hospital on Labor Day.

The first day I was admitted to a room on a floor that was partially dedicated to patients with severe liver disease. They ran tests on 24 miles of blood and came up with no answers in the coming weeks. After many exhausting diagnostic tests, I was finally placed on the transplant list; at that point I was so sick I was #1 on the list and was to be taken off the following day. My family was told I had 48 hours to live and to be prepared.

It was a Thursday when one of my nurses came in very excited because they had confirmed a matching liver for me from an organ donor in West Virginia. I didn’t get too excited at first though, because I had been told a couple days ago that there was a potential donor with a liver for me but that donor's family changed their mind last-minute. I have four sisters, three daughters, and a husband who were devastated when that happened, although we understood how devastating that loss was for the family who lost their child. However, that Thursday I did end up receiving my lifesaving gift of a new liver that has been such a miracle in so many ways. I don’t know where to begin.

My faith in God never wavered. I don’t think you really know how strong you believe until you are truly at death’s door and have no fear. I was wheeled into the operating area, and the anesthesiologist offered something to calm my nerves. I remember smiling and telling her I was not nervous. I knew that God would help me in the palm of his hand. The head surgeon of the transplant team (whom I subsequently dubbed Dr. Fancy Pants!) performed my surgery after receiving the organ. I have been called a miracle many times since then.

I started feeling better very quickly and decided to set my sights on acute rehab. This apparently was a very challenging goal because they didn’t have any availability. Prior to my liver failure, I had been dealing with years of severe sensory polyneuropathy that is a rare form affecting my hands, legs and feet, so I knew I had to be moving to regain my ability to walk. I welcomed every form of therapy, even when I couldn’t imagine getting out of bed, and I ended up not only getting into acute rehab, but exceeding expectations and being discharged two weeks after my transplant. I shared this to encourage others to believe in the power of prayer and the power of self resilience. Don’t let negative thoughts enter your mind - strive for future goals as I did.

First and foremost, our middle daughter was getting married in November and I did not want to ruin her big day. Our oldest daughter became my medical power of attorney and helped me plan my funeral because my husband was unable to process medical decisions or life decisions at that time. Our youngest daughter was devastated and I didn’t want to let her down either.

Tomorrow will be a year and since that time I am able to physically do what I was told would never be possible.