“The Greatest Hero I Never Knew was the Organ Donor who Saved My Life.”
In September of 2018, Tina Bartolucci, Keller office manager for Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas, was suddenly diagnosed with acute liver failure. This journey has been nothing short of miraculous and life changing for Tina, her family, and her FAANT Family. To help raise awareness and engage with the community, Tina is sharing her amazing story!
For years prior to my liver transplant, I practiced a diet of clean eating, participated in CrossFit about 4 times a week, and lived a generally healthy lifestyle. I had no known health concerns and no apparent problems with my liver. In the weeks leading up to my liver transplant I had not been feeling my best. After visiting my primary care provider, it was determined that I most likely had an upper respiratory infection, and a week later, walking pneumonia. After resting for 5 more days, I was still not feeling any better. It was then that my daughter noticed my jaundice eyes and I was immediately sent for lab work by my doctor. She received my results in the early morning of Wednesday, September 5, and sent me straight to the emergency room. I was urgently admitted to Texas Health Alliance Hospital, and it was quickly determined that I was in acute liver failure and should be transported to UT Southwestern in Dallas. My family was told I would need a liver transplant in the next 7-10 days, and the amazing team at UT Southwestern worked overnight with my daughter to get me on the transplant list. However, my liver began to fail rapidly, and the doctors determined that I would need a transplant within 24 hours or I would likely not survive. I was put on more prayer lists than I could imagine, and my boss, Lori Cerami, at Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas gathered our employees into rooms to let them know about my grave situation. It was within a few hours that my family received word that a matching liver was recovered. I received my liver transplant on the evening of Thursday, September 6. I have no memory of anything after Thursday, August 30 due to the toxins building up in my body. When I awoke on Saturday, September 8, I was informed of my life-saving liver transplant. I quickly realized that someone else lost their life in order to save mine. While I will never be able to thank that person, I will always be grateful for their gift of life. After this experience, I am a huge advocate of donating life. Without the quick action of Kallal Medical Group, Texas Health Alliance Hospital, and UT Southwestern Medical Center, I would likely not be here today.
According to the Southwest Transplant Alliance, there are more than 113,000 men, women, and children in the United States who need an organ transplant to live, and over 10,000 in Texas. While the number of donors is growing, there is still a great need for registered donors. Every year, about 8,000 people die while waiting for a life-saving transplant, and someone new is added to the transplant list every 10 minutes. You can register to be an organ donor by visiting registerme.org and share this information with family so that they are aware of your decision.
You can learn more about becoming an organ donor through the non-profit Outlive Yourself Foundation. The Foundation honors and supports the gift of life through organ donation and has a mission to educate the community, provide care and support to donor and recipient families, and to advance transplant science. The Outlive Yourself Foundation was created by the Southwest Transplant Alliance (STA), a non-profit organization that serves as a bridge between those who make the decision to donate their organs and tissue and those who need a lifesaving transplant.
Throughout this journey, Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas (FAANT) has been an incredible support. They have helped me with everything from meals for my family, prayers, and they gave me the time I needed to recover. In addition, FAANT is partnering with the American Red Cross to promote lifesaving donations by hosting a blood drive on Friday May 24, 2019 at our Grapevine location. I received multiple lifesaving blood transfusions during my transplant, so we are inviting our local community to join us in donating to help others in need! Click here to sign up!
While my liver transplant was truly a miracle, my recovery has been nothing short of miraculous as well. At 3 months post op I was able to participate in the Liver Life Walk in Dallas. At 4 months, I was back in my CrossFit Gym doing a modified weight lifting and cardio program and I am gradually getting stronger every day. And most recently, at 6 months, I began a running program to help me regain my stamina. While my normal routines are starting to fall back in to place, my life will never be the same. I can honestly say it is better, because now I live every day with intention and purpose. I am forever grateful for my hero – the organ donor that saved my life.