Stories of Hope: Judy Regnier

Judy-Regnier-8x10Judy Regnier, a Registered Nurse, contracted Hepatitis C while working in the ICU in the 1980s. She was completely unaware of it until she developed symptoms twenty years later. Her diagnosis was confirmed with a blood test and she was referred to Stanford Medical Center. Showing signs of liver failure, Judy was immediately listed for a liver transplant. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a nurse and just 56 years old.

Judy continued to work for a year after being put on the transplant waiting list, but eventually became too ill to work. For most of her adult life she had been the caregiver as both a nurse and a mother to two boys. Now the tables were turned and her husband, Ken, was taking care of her. Judy’s two sons were both married and had children of their own. She had a new grandson born just nine months before her transplant, and she was able to go to Florida when he was born, but was not able to travel after that. She was too ill and also needed to be near the transplant center in case there was an organ available for her!

After two years on the waiting list, Judy received the call from her transplant center with an offer for a new liver. Judy accepted, knowing the liver was healthy but a carrier for Hepatitis B. “I said YES, as I desperately wanted to LIVE!”

Judy received the gift of life on Mother’s Day, 1998 from a 33-year-old man from Arizona. The surgery was successful, although the Hepatitis C virus became very active in her transplanted liver. Fortunately, Judy was allowed to take part in a then-investigational study of dual therapy of interferon and ribavirin for 24 months. The treatment was successful, and Judy is free of Hepatitis nearly 17 years later. She is grateful not only for the cure of Hepatitis C, but also that she was able to participate in the study that gave her and many others the ability to use the combination of drugs for treatment.

Following her transplant, Judy was able to eventually return to her career as a part-time nurse with a hospice – a career she loved and found rewarding for more than 20 years. In addition, she has been able to travel with her husband, see her sons, six grandchildren, and extended family across the country.

Says Judy, now retired and living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, “What an awesome 16 years of life I have had since then! I have watched my grandchildren grow, started a business with my watercolor paintings, and became a Donate Life volunteer advocate first with Donor Network West [formerly CTDN] and later Sierra Donor Services.”

While Judy has written many letters of overwhelming gratitude to her donor’s family, the family wishes to remain anonymous. “I am forever grateful to that loving, generous family who donated the organs of the nameless gentleman who died that day…the day before Mother’s Day! As a mother myself, I simply cannot imagine what they had experienced that day. But because of their donation, I have been able to watch my grandchildren grow up. It has now been 16 wonderful years!”

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