Liver Transplant Recipient Pursues Dream of Becoming A Pediatric Gastroenterologist
It has been just about four years since my last blog post and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to provide an update on everything that has happened since then!
How My Liver Transplant Journey Began
My journey began when I was 12 years old. I was a very healthy and athletic girl who developed acute liver failure after being sick for less than one month. I was given just seven days to live. To this day, my doctors do not know what caused my liver to fail. I was listed as status 1A on the transplant waiting list. Miraculously, an organ was available the very next day and I underwent a liver transplant! After a bumpy road the first year post-transplant with a few complications, things settled down and I now have been very healthy 18+ years post-transplant. I continue to take immunosuppressant medication every day, get labs drawn every few months, and have an annual GI appointment. But other than that, I live life to the fullest and have been continuing to pursue my life dreams!
Working Towards Becoming a Pediatric Gastroenterologist
Since my last post, I have been busier than ever and working hard to make my dreams a reality to become a pediatric gastroenterologist. I graduated medical school at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 2015, got married the next day and moved to Phoenix, Arizona the following week. I completed my pediatric residency at Phoenix Children’s Hospital where I learned a tremendous amount with wonderful mentors and friends to last a lifetime. After three years of residency, I was accepted into Cincinnati Children’s Gastroenterology Fellowship Program, a dream I have had since I was about 13 or 14 years old!
Now I am working alongside Dr. Balistreri, my former hepatologist, one of the many who saved my life. He is my hero, inspiration and mentor! It truly is special to train under Dr. B and work with him in his Liver Clinic. I am also working alongside one of my transplant surgeons, Dr. Maria Alonso. She is an amazing woman and an extremely talented surgeon who inspires all of us everyday. There are many other team members, hepatologists, surgeons, transplant coordinators, dietitians and nurses that were on my transplant team that are now my colleagues and friends.
I am reunited with my GI family and I am honored and thankful every day to be a part of this incredible team. Most days it still feels pretty unreal that I became a GI fellow here at Cincinnati Children’s. I was inspired by my team and this dream developed over 15 years ago, and now to actually be living my dream, it’s hard to put into words how much it means to me.
How Experience Plays A Role In Patient Care
Many people have asked if it has been difficult to go through the arduous medical training process as a transplant recipient. But I have found it to be quite the opposite. My transplant journey pushes me to excel and to continue to be thankful for the gift of life I was given over 18 years ago. I make the most of everything I have and everything I am a part of. Further, I do notice how my personal experience plays a role in how I care for patients. I often have gone through the specific things I talk to my patients about and can provide a deeper level of empathy and understanding. However, I am still learning how and when it is best to share my personal transplant story with patients and families. I am very open about sharing, but only once I get to know families and think they may benefit from hearing about my experience. When I have shared, many parents and patients are very inspired and hopeful that they too can live life to the fullest and can achieve their life dreams!
Looking To The Future
Currently, I am approaching the end of my first year of my pediatric GI fellowship, which is a required three years of training. Then I will apply and hopefully be accepted for an optional fourth year of GI fellowship to train in Pediatric Advanced Hepatology and Liver Transplant Medicine. At this point, I see myself continuing my career here at Cincinnati Children’s and working to advance the field of liver disease and liver transplantation in children. I have always had big hopes and dreams and I know this will continue throughout my lifetime. I am excited to see what my future professional and personal life will bring!