[MUSIC PLAYING] SUSAN DRAPER: Family is the most important thing to me. I am a wife and a mother of four beautiful children. And we like to spend a lot of time together.
Last winter, I was finding myself with less and less energy. I didn't have any oomph to do anything. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I wasn't in any pain. But I sure was just tired. When I was laying on the couch, I couldn't even open my eyes. And when I did, my daughter had taped a note that she wrote onto her face and finally got me to open my eyes. And I could read it. It said, I'm hungry and bored. And usually, when I am doing well, the things I do is I cook and we are playing, and we are doing something.
So I went in and I did some blood work. And then the very next morning, I got a call saying, go into the hospital and just get your tests done. See what's going on.
DR. ROBERT BROWN: I first met Susan with the rapid development of jaundice, which is a sign of liver failure, as well as signs of severe liver injury. Acute liver failure is a rare condition in which someone who has no previous existing liver disease becomes suddenly ill.
DR. BENJAMIN SAMSTEIN: Her liver was severely injured, functioning at a tiny fraction of what the normal liver function would be. We expected that without a liver transplant, we thought Susan would have less than seven days to live.
SUSAN DRAPER: It was so fast that I didn't think about, like, last words for my kids. And that really hit home a lot more. So--
DR. BENJAMIN SAMSTEIN: Patients who have acute liver failure can be the very sickest patients in the hospital. And as in Susan's case, when there's no clear indication or reason why she had this, there's no way to reverse it. So without a way to reverse it, it's critical to find a donor quickly.
DR. ROBERT BROWN: Susan was listed as a UNOS status one, the highest status, which is reserved for this rare category of rapidly progressive acute liver failure. Susan was lucky that she was listed very rapidly and that an appropriate organ offer was available for her in the time frame before she progressed to too sick.
SUSAN DRAPER: It was the best news. And yet, it was not easy. He was able to tell us that it was a teenage boy. He was able to donate to a number of other people. So we were happy. And we were sober.
DR. BENJAMIN SAMSTEIN: As soon as we're determined that the organ is appropriate, basically, Susan goes into the operating room. She's anesthetized. Nest We would take her old, very diseased liver out. And we immediately put the new liver in.
Usually, we can start seeing that it might start making clotting factors and clearing toxins even while it's in the operating room.
After a liver transplant, people live pretty normal lives. Susan's doing very well. Within weeks after her transplant, she was living a very full and robust life.
SUSAN DRAPER: And now, nine months later, I am perfectly healthy. I am feeling better than I did before.
We have heard that it's not always a possibility to be able to even meet the donor family, that sometimes you just write. And so we were absolutely thrilled when we found out that they had reached out to recipient families who might want to meet them.
SPEAKER: At a small conference room inside the New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, two moms meet for the first time. One has suffered incredible loss. Another was brought back from the brink of death. Both are bonded by a teen who's no longer here.
DR. BENJAMIN SAMSTEIN: Having a family member die is always one of the very hardest moments in anybody's life. And I think that the families who have the strength to see past that moment and to give a gift to other families that are facing death, like Susan's family, to me is one of the best moments of our humanity.
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After being diagnosed with acute liver failure last winter, Susan Draper and her family faced a sobering reality: she needed a new liver, and a living donor was not an option. Thanks to the physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, as well as the staff at the organ donor network LiveOnNY, Draper received a new liver, enabling her to live a long, healthy life with her husband and four children.