David Bruce: Transplants and Heroes

• Following a liver transplant on 5 December 2005,Glenis McGrath got an extra added bonus: the return of her eyesight. Ms. McGrath, who moved to Brisbane, Australia, from Dubbo, Australia, for the transplant, said, “The how or why of what’s happened cannot be explained, but doctors are now busy documenting my amazing recovery. I’m just so happy to be able to see again and to have a donor liver that’s giving me a whole new chance at life. My excited doctors told me to go out and tell the world, and I certainly haven’t needed any encouragement to share the good news. It just goes to show what can be achieved through medical technology, the power of prayer, and sheer determination.” Ms. McGrath had endured 20 years of pain, deteriorating health, and bowel and bile duct surgery before the transplant. She said, “Whenever things seemed too much, I’d say, ‘You go, girl — get on with it.’ There was no point giving up or feeling sorry for myself. I was prepared to fight every step of the way because there’s just so much to live for.” She almost did not get a liver transplant: “I lived in Brisbane for six months before receiving the call that a liver was available. After [I was] prepped for surgery, doctors said the donor liver was too fatty so I was sent home. I was absolutely devastated and returned to Dubbo not knowing what was likely to happen with my health. Fifteen months ago an alarming deterioration in my liver function and eyesight prompted a quick move back to Brisbane. Doctors were unsure about what could be done, and two months ago I reached the point where I could barely see at all. The Royal Blind Society was preparing to train me to use a guide dog, then after another hospitalization I found myself back on the transplant list.” After the transplant, she spent a lot of time in intensive care. She said, “Then an amazing thing happened — a nurse came into my room, and I could see her face. At first I thought it was my imagination, but later when they took me outside in a wheelchair I could see flowers, trees, and colors. It was absolutely amazing, and stunned medical staff were over the moon. Perhaps it was the transplant or the massive vitamin A doses I had been given in an attempt to combat the blindness. Being able to see is a wonderful gift that is allowing me to return to my passion of painting. I used to paint five days a week — it was my life.”

• In 2003, fourth-grader Souad (Arabic for “luck”) Barry received a special gift from her younger brother, Obie, age seven: a bone-marrow transplant that cured her sickle-cell disease. In 2004, the children’s mother, Titi Barry, held a big party for 200, including people from as far away as Africa, at the Lomax AME Zion Church in Arlington, Virginia, to celebrate her daughter’s cure. Titi said, “I was praying and I was telling God if this works, I will praise Him and invite all the people involved.” Before the transplant, Souad suffered. She said, “The pain would wake me up. It was mostly in my stomach.” Her family tried to ease her pain. Souad said, “They would rub my body and use a hot washcloth.” In July 2002, her health was very bad, and she needed three blood transfusions — in three days. Getting the money for the $400,000 procedure was difficult. The salaries of father Oumar Barry, an airline worker, and Titi Barry, a sonographer, could not cover it. Titi said, “I didn’t understand. Our insurance company didn’t want to pay because they said it was experimental.” She wrote to many nonprofit organizations to ask for money for the procedure, but she said, “I received 10 responses. All of them said it was the end of the year and they didn’t have funds.” Fortunately, she learned that the procedure could be done free at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, California, so Titi and her children went to Oakland while Oumar stayed in Arlington and worked. Titi said, “It was hard because we didn’t know anybody there. But I said if I had to sleep on the street, I will do it because we’d been through so much already.” Previously, Souad had protected her brother from playground bullies. Souad said, “He’s always playing basketball. One day, this boy wanted to take his ball and I pushed him away.” Now Obie helped his sister. Titi said, “Obie had seen Souad have crises. He asked me, ‘If I give my blood, will Souad feel better?’ I said ‘Yes.’ Then he said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it!’” After the bone-marrow transplant, Souad felt better and was free from sickle-cell anemia. She wants to learn gymnastics. She said, “I want to learn to do a cartwheel.”

• On 22 November 2011 in western Pennsylvania, fire broke out at the home of Charlene McMasters, age 74. She said, “I don’t know what it was, but I remember something woke me up. I noticed smoke and I rushed to get my handbag and I went to the window and screamed and screamed.” Justin Ritchie, her 14-year-old neighbor, woke up when he heard first his dog barking and then her screaming. New Castle Assistant Fire Chief David Joseph said about Justin, “He went out and saw this woman hanging out of the window. … It was Charlene, and her house was on fire,” Justin saw a rickety wooden ladder and leaned it against the wall so that she could climb out of her window. He warned her that the ladder was rickety, but she replied that she didn’t care. She took two steps down the ladder, it broke, and she fell. She said, “I came crashing down and fell a long way.” She broke some ribs in the fall and was taken to a hospital. She said, “I got a walker, a good therapy session, and I will heal. I can’t thank this young man enough. I don’t know what would have happened had he not come to my rescue.” She added, “I’m grateful to be alive. It was quite an ordeal.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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