Christine Graham

When I was a baby my parents noticed that I was always bruising at even the slightest touch. The doctors could tell that something was wrong with my liver, but weren’t able to diagnose it until they performed a liver biopsy. In December 1983 I was diagnosed with Neonatal Giant Cell Hepatitis at 3 months of age.

Throughout the following year my parents watched over me while my liver disease got worse. Then in November 1984 my father passed away in a car accident, leaving my mom alone to take care of a seriously ill child along with a teenager and toddlers. As time went on I continued to grow sicker, developing ascites (I was a 3-year-old with a 32 inch waistline) and enduring more than 20 hospitalizations due to uncontrollable nose bleeds. My mom and oldest sister told me that I used to sit against the corners of the walls in our house and rub back and forth trying to relieve the itching sensation I was experiencing due to the liver disease. We have pictures of those corners all worn down to the metal bracing thanks to me!

When I was 2-years-old my pediatrician, Dr Victor Alcalde, brought up the subject of transplantation to my mom. She sought a second opinion with Chicago’s “finest and most knowledgable pediatric liver physician.” This doctor told my mom, “It’s no use. Just take her home, make her comfortable, and let her die.” Well, we all know my mom didn’t listen to that! I was put on the transplant waiting lists at hospitals in Denver, Miami and Pittsburgh. All of the liver programs said that I was the “perfect candidate.”

In February 1983 we were paged and flown to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, by the time I was prepped for surgery we were told the donor liver was unusable. Then, just six days after my fourth birthday, on September 27, 1983, we were called a second time and I received a great liver! Since then everything, with the exception of one early bout of rejection, has been smooth sailing.

For the longest time I was embarrassed to talk about my transplant, but then I grew up and realized how special it is, and how I should use this gift to help others. One way I would love to help others is by becoming a physician. I have always wanted to be a doctor. Most people just laugh and think I would want to stay as far away from the field of medicine as possible, but it is what drives me and what intrigues me. This past year I applied and interviewed at five different medical schools (and I am proud to say I was accepted to all five schools)!

After my classes ended this semester, I attended the Transplant Games for the second time. The Games are incredible! It seems no matter how much you try to prepare yourself for the opening ceremonies and the donor tribute, you are never quite ready for them. During these events there was not a dry eye in the entire sports complex. It is so wonderful at the Transplant Games to be able to talk with people and have them understand EXACTLY what you are talking about. The stories are all amazing and all unique, and the competitions are light-hearted.

In addition to attending the Transplant Games, my year has been full of many exciting events. My liver became an adult in September 2001 (turning 18) as I endured my hectic senior year at the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition to acting as VP of the school Pre-Med group and as a director of recruitment for the Student Ambassadors, I worked 20 hours a week, took 17 credits each semester, applied to medical school, graduated with two degrees and, oh yeah, I got married!

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