By writer to www.silive.com
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — On March 2, Jennifer Perez made her approach to pressing care after days of feeling unwell. Simply 12 days later, the Staten Island fourth-grade trainer would get a liver transplant.
Perez, 37, took a couple of days off from her job as a trainer at PS 60 in Graniteville as a result of she was feeling unwell. She went to pressing care after complaining of yellowed eyes, which medical specialists informed her was jaundice, a situation by which the pores and skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes flip yellow. She wanted to go to a hospital instantly.
After assessments have been performed at Staten Island College Hospital, Perez recalled that her liver enzyme ranges have been “extraordinarily irregular” and “very, very excessive.”
Docs informed Perez she seemingly had autoimmune hepatitis, a illness by which the physique’s immune system assaults liver cells. Perez defined she already had autoimmune illnesses in her lifetime — she has vitiligo and suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when she was a toddler.
Perez was informed she would want extra specialised care and remedy — and presumably a liver transplant — so she was transported by ambulance to North Shore College Hospital in Manhasset, L.I. The trainer was instantly put into the SICU, a surgical intensive care unit, for 2 days whereas she was given steroids to make her liver enzyme numbers go down.
“They began to see the numbers come down a bit, in order that they have been hopeful and so they moved me from the intensive care unit right down to the transplant ground,” she mentioned. “At this level, they didn’t suppose I might essentially want a transplant, they have been simply making the mandatory preparations if one thing have been to drastically go unsuitable and I would want one — which finally that did occur, and I’m glad they took the precautions needed as a result of all the pieces occurred so shortly, and I went from form of the numbers taking place a little bit bit to acute liver failure inside a couple of days.”
The steroids didn’t work for Perez. As a substitute, the shortage of liver perform led to ammonia build-up in her physique — which prompted confusion and encephalitis, or mind swelling. She recalled that the nurses would ask her questions daily to maintain her mind energetic — just like the title of the president and the names of her youngsters.
“As time went on, I imply, I couldn’t bear in mind my birthday,” she mentioned. “I couldn’t bear in mind my brother’s birthday, or who the earlier president was, like simply easy questions that I ought to know the solutions to — particularly as a fourth-grade trainer. So at this level, after I began to deteriorate, they needed to put me again into the surgical intensive care unit, and round March 10th or 11th is once they got here in and actually confirmed that I might positively want a transplant.”
ACUTE LIVER FAILURE
Perez mentioned she was in acute liver failure attributable to autoimmune hepatitis, and was positioned as standing 1A, the highest of the liver transplant listing. Docs informed her she was inside hours or days of dying if she didn’t get a transplant.
And attributable to coronavirus (COVID-19) visitation restrictions, she was solely in a position to see one member of the family for as much as two hours every day. She credited her sort nurses for continuously checking on her all through the day to “hold her alive” as she waited for a donor liver.
“They have been simply an unbelievable group of nurses who took care of me, and simply across the clock watched me and did all the pieces they may to guarantee that I used to be acutely aware and I stayed alive till I used to be in a position to get the liver,” Perez mentioned.
By March 13, Perez mentioned she continued to worsen. Her ammonia ranges have been excessive, and the encephalitis was beginning to have an effect on her psychological perform. Docs informed her household she could be unable to breathe on her personal and should be positioned on life help.
However that very same night round 7:30 p.m., Perez mentioned she was knowledgeable that the hospital was in a position to procure a liver.
‘GAVE ME THE GIFT OF LIFE’
“I get emotional interested by it, as a result of clearly a member of the family misplaced their son — he was 25 years previous,” she mentioned, speaking by way of tears. “…They gave me the present of life so his liver was donated to me. He was from Virginia and that’s all I actually know concerning the household however — sorry it’s simply emotional after I get to that a part of the story.”
“The nurses have been actually cheering me on and actually needed me to get this liver. And then you definately’re pondering that they’re hoping you get this liver, however on the identical time it means they’re hoping that another person is dropping their life. It’s actually robust. I used to be given this miracle as a result of that’s what I really feel prefer it was — a miracle. It simply, it got here at actually the 11th hour and I actually didn’t have a lot time. I’ve two daughters and a husband. I’m solely 37, so it was a scary time,” she continued.
It wasn’t till after her surgical procedure that Perez realized how shut she was to dying, and the way shut her youngsters have been to dropping their mom.
“I’m so grateful,” she mentioned. “I really feel like I used to be given a second likelihood at life, and I simply admire my pals and my household a lot greater than I ever did, as a result of they’re the individuals who have been by my facet reaching out to me and simply giving me, , constructive ideas and phrases and prayers.”
A COMMUNITY THAT GIVES BACK
Whereas Perez was hospitalized, a GoFundMe was created by her colleague, Maria Balsamo, asking for each financial donations, and sick day donations. New York Metropolis Division of Training (DOE) workers can financial institution sick days of their Cumulative Absence Reserve, which may be transferred to different workers.
Perez mentioned she acquired sufficient donated days from her colleagues — and different DOE workers exterior of her college — to permit her to remain residence for the rest of the varsity 12 months with out having to go on incapacity or take a pay lower.
“It’s simply unbelievable to know I’ve touched their lives in a approach that they felt the necessity to do that for me,” Perez mentioned. “…I imply, it’s not one thing I even have to consider and take that stress off of my thoughts and I may give attention to my restoration. I don’t know the way I may repay them. It’s heartwarming that somebody would try this for me and it wasn’t simply colleagues at my college, there have been different folks from different colleges I do know who’ve donated their days.”
She additionally thanked workers at Gerald Peters within the Staten Island Mall, New Springville. Perez referred to as the jewellery retailer to buy a bracelet to thank one among her nurses and shared her liver transplant story with workers. When Perez’s husband went to select up the bracelet, Gerald Peters additionally gifted Perez a bracelet.
“It was such a wonderful factor that they needed to brighten my day, enlighten my day although I used to be making an attempt to thank another person for what they did for me,” Perez mentioned.
LOOKING FORWARD IN RECOVERY
Perez mentioned she is recovering nicely at residence and taking every day at a time. She mentioned she is feeling good so far as her transplant is worried, however is experiencing unintended effects from her remedy.
“I’m on the mend and my liver is functioning fully usually, thank God,” she mentioned.
Her husband took time without work from work to assist Perez throughout her restoration. Perez mentioned that her two daughters, Mia, 9, and Taylor, 6, are joyful their mom is again residence.
“I feel that it was actually aggravating whereas I used to be within the hospital for them and I might FaceTime with them. It was very exhausting for me to see their faces as a result of I knew that they weren’t themselves, however proper now they’re positively joyful that we’re all again residence as a household,” Perez mentioned.
And her daughters are even appearing as Perez’s personal at-home nurses — ensuring she takes her drugs usually at sure occasions all through the day.
“They’re involved that I’m going to return to the hospital, however I hold making certain them that I’m okay and I simply need to be aware of my drugs and be wholesome and I’ll be okay,” she mentioned. “I inform them, ‘This isn’t the exhausting half, we’re over the exhausting half’.”
She mentioned she is aware of she nonetheless has a street to restoration till she will get again to regular life, however is grateful for the help from pals, household, colleagues and the neighborhood.
“I actually am grateful I had everyone to help me, and I actually needed to achieve out to you [the Advance/SILive.com], as a result of I truthfully needed to spotlight organ donation as a result of I really feel prefer it’s not one thing that I by no means ever considered earlier than, and it’s simply so vital,” she mentioned. “There’s a variety of misconceptions I feel that folks have concerning organ donation, and I really feel like my mission transferring ahead is to simply let folks know that it’s a wonderful factor to present another person life when yours involves an finish. I’m so grateful to the household who selected to try this of their time of grief.”
— to www.silive.com