Cincinnati Children's Blog

My Second Chance: Life After Liver Failure

My Second Chance: Life After Liver Failure

When I was 12 years old, after just a few weeks of being sick, I was told I had liver failure and seven days to live. I was immediately listed on the transplant waiting list and miraculously a liver was found for me the very next day. This experience and my post-transplant journey have shaped who I am today and who I hope to be in the future.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor, mostly because of the show ER. But after my whirlwind medical journey, my dream evolved into wanting to become a pediatric gastroenterologist.Julie Bonn.Balistreri

And this weekend that dream is on its way to becoming true! I will be graduating from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and will be continuing my training in pediatric residency at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. After that I hope to obtain a pediatric fellowship and become a pediatric gastroenterologist specializing in liver disease and liver transplantation. It would be amazing to eventually make my way back to Cincinnati Children’s and work alongside the very doctors who saved my life many years ago. To the right is a picture of me and Dr. Balistreri, my gastroenterologist!

I think many of my experiences as a patient have shaped the type of doctor that I want to be. As a 12 year old, I could have been traumatized by the experience of hospitalization, liver failure and nearly losing my life. But the nurses, doctors and other healthcare staff at Cincinnati Children’s made my experience a positive one. Because of that, I would like to help other children and their families have a similar experience as me – especially those who need a liver transplant or are going through another serious medical event.

My experience as a patient has definitely shaped my personality as a physician in training. I frequently find myself looking at things from the patient’s perspective and thinking, how would I want this to be? It is very easy for physicians and healthcare workers to forget that much of what we learn in medical training is not common knowledge. I always try to break things down for the patient by simplifying the terms and taking those extra five minutes to explain exactly what is going on with patient and what the medical team is thinking. It was incredibly important to me as a patient and still is today.

I have realized through both my medical school training and my unique patient perspective that no matter how big or how small the medical news you are delivering to a patient, it can change that person’s life forever. To a physician, diagnosing high blood pressure is very commonplace, but to a patient, that news can be devastating. When I was told that I needed to take immunosuppressant medication every day for the rest of my life, it was not easy to hear as a teenager but I’ve slowly accepted it as my new normal. I think keeping this perspective in mind as a physician can truly make a difference for patients.

I feel so fortunate to be where I am today. I take an immunosuppressant twice daily, get routine labs drawn just four times a year and an annual liver ultrasound and doctor’s appointment. Other than that, I lead a completely normal life and you would never know that I’m a liver transplant recipient!

Being told I have seven days to live at the age of 12 has made me appreciate the second chance I have been given at life. I have learned from the many lessons life has thrown at me and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I truly believe in living life to the fullest (see cover image: hiking in Switzerland!) and not taking any moment for granted. I have followed my dreams and tried to not let anything hold me back. I am so excited to be graduating from medical school and embarking upon this next phase of my professional career.Julie Bonn.proposal

Did I mention not taking any moment for granted? In addition to graduating in May, I will also be marrying the man of my dreams, Alexander Osborn, the day after graduation on May 24! This month is and will be one of the greatest months of my life and I am so happy and thankful for everyone who has helped me fulfill my dreams!

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