Stories of Hope: Danielle Delgado

When I was eight weeks old, I was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a disease in which the bile ducts that work with the liver have abnormal openings, eventually leading to liver failure. Biliary atresia can go undetected in its early stages. At eight weeks old, I had a procedure to fix the bile ducts, however, my doctors soon realized the procedure didn’t work for me, and that I would need a liver transplant.

Prior to my transplant I needed constant care and my mother took a year off of work to give me medicine and treatments. I couldn’t eat solid foods or gain weight, and I suffered from jaundice. My mom fed me intravenously with food called TPN which caused me to be very bloated. She felt like she had become a nurse.

During the time I was on the waiting list, my parents wore beepers that alerted them when a liver was available. I received “the call” from UCLA Medical Center twice for potential liver transplants. The first time we were “beeped”, my mother and I were whisked to UCLA on a helicopter and landed on the hospital’s roof. Hours later, my mother was told that the liver’s configuration wouldn’t work with my body. My mom said that was fine – she’d rather wait to find me the perfect liver that would function best with my body.

At eight months old, on Mother’s Day of 1999, I received a life-changing split-liver transplant at the UCLA Medical Center. My mom said that was the best Mother’s Day present she could have ever received. In a split liver transplant, the donor’s liver is divided and given to two recipients. The other portion of the liver was given to an older woman. My donor was an eighteen year old male who was hit by a car while rollerblading. Even though his death was a horrible tragedy for his family and friends, it was a miracle for mine.

Now I’m now in high school and will be celebrating my 18th birthday this fall. When I got my driver license a year ago, I made sure I signed up to be a donor and got the pink “DONOR” dot on my license. I am very involved at school – I belong to the swing dancing and art history clubs and will be the goalie on the Varsity Field Hockey team this coming school year.

Every summer, I enjoy going to The Painted Turtle camp. This is a camp for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses. Over the years, I have met a lot of other people with organ transplants that I see year after year and have made new friends. This summer, I will be a counselor-in-training and plan to be an official counselor in the future.

This summer, I will tour California colleges and begin applying in the fall. I am truly thankful for the liver transplant I received and the donor who saved my life. I have had a very healthy and wonderful life. Because of my liver transplant I have learned to not take life for granted. I am thankful for every day God gives me, and I look forward to the future.

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