Stories of Hope: Leiauna Anderson

In January 2006, special education teacher Leiauna Anderson and her husband, Jeff, were expecting their first child. Leiauna was getting ready for bed when she noticed that her unborn baby had not moved in a while. She went to the hospital that evening and an ultrasound was performed. The nurse looked down at Leiauna and said, “I’m sorry honey, there’s no heartbeat.” She was seven months pregnant and her baby had died. Leiauna’s blood pressure was extremely high and she had developed pre-eclampsia.

In the morning, after a long night stabilizing Leiauna’s vital signs, her blood pressure began to drop very quickly. A C-section was performed immediately and doctors discovered two liters of blood in Leiauna’s abdomen. “I had lost my baby and now I was facing losing my own life,” said Leiauna. Leiauna had developed a life-threatening pregnancy complication known as HELLP Syndrome – her liver had ruptured and her kidneys were failing. Leiauna was transferred to UCLA where doctors determined that Leiauna would need a liver transplant and she was placed at the top of the list. Because she had only a few days to live, the following Tuesday Leiauna received a bridge transplant, one given to a patient in an emergency situation until a more suitable organ is available. On Friday, Leiauna received her second liver transplant in less than a week. It was a very good match and after spending three months in the hospital, Leiauna was sent home and on the road to recovery.

In late 2008, Leiauna and her husband had the privilege of meeting the family of her second liver donor, Sheila Donnelly. Sheila was from Hemet, California, and was 19 years old when she passed away. Sheila’s love for life lives on in Leiauna.

When Leiauna asked her doctors if she could still get pregnant, they said that it was possible, but that she shouldn’t because there was a very good chance that it could be life-threatening. Determined to become a mother, Leiauna researched her options. “I was fortunate enough, though, to undergo an in-vitro fertilization procedure and with the help of a surrogate carrier, I was able to finally realize my dream of becoming a mother,” she said. Rex Anderson was born in November 2008.

“Our son Rex has given me a new purpose in life. The gifts I received from strangers made all the difference in whether or not I lived and ultimately gave me the opportunity to become a mother.”

In 2007, Leiauna participated in her first Donate Life Run/Walk and was inspired to become a volunteer Donate Life Ambassador. Leiauna was honored as a Donate Life Float rider in 2011 and continues to go out into the community to inspire others to become registered organ and tissue donors.

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