It was a few days before Thanksgiving when Cathy Evans, a patient at Piedmont Transplant Institute, noticed her stomach had started to swell. Little did she know at the time, her stomach pain would lead to a life-changing diagnosis.
That Wednesday, the pain became so intense that she went to the emergency department. After undergoing tests, Evans received a shocking diagnosis: liver failure.
“I thought [hospital staff] had done something wrong,” she explains. “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke.”
The medical team removed 18 pounds of fluid from Evans’ abdominal area.
A worsening condition
Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, Evans estimates she was in and out of the emergency department seven times. She was so tired of being a patient, she vowed never to return to the hospital after her birthday on January 3.
However, the next morning Evans was so sick she was forced to have her mother take her back to the ED.
“I couldn’t do it anymore,” she explains. “You have a feeling within yourself – you just know this is it.”
As they arrived at the hospital, Evans’ mother put her in a wheelchair because she couldn’t even walk.
“I’ll never forget looking up at her while I was in that wheelchair saying, ‘This is it, mama,’” she remembers. “She kept telling me to hang in there.”
The fight for her life
Evans met with Lance Stein, M.D., a transplant hepatologist, and Roshan Shrestha, M.D., medical director of liver transplantation, and began a series of medical tests necessary for transplant evaluation.
The transplant team encouraged her as she fought for her life.
“Dr. Mark Johnson said, ‘Give me a week, hang in there and keep fighting. We are going to make this happen,’” she says. “I fought for life like I have never fought before in my life.”
Three days later, Dr. Johnson returned with good news: she would receive a new liver that night.
“I looked at him and started crying,” she says. “I was excited, but obviously emotional because I knew that someone had to pass for me to live.”
A life to celebrate
Evans is grateful for her mother and father’s support during her health battle.
“My dad is really ill, but he is still with me to see many things happening for me now, which is really important to him,” she says.
She is also thankful to have more time to spend with her daughter and three grandchildren.
Her liver transplant also led her to reconnect with an old friend.
“My old friend from high school has come back into my life through my liver transplant and we are now engaged to be married,” she says.
The couple plans to wed in November so Cathy can have a spectacular holiday season, as she spent the majority of the holidays last year in and out of the hospital.
Her experience at Piedmont
“I have to say Piedmont rocks,” says Evans. “I can never give a big enough thanks to these people. They have warmed and touched my heart beyond life itself.”
For more information about liver transplantation, visit Piedmont Transplant Institute.