My name is Vicky I’m 28 years old and I’m a 2x liver transplant survivor. Throughout my life, I never knew what life was like before my first transplant. You see, shortly after I was born, I was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a birth defect where the bile ducts don’t form properly to the liver. After a failed Kasai procedure, it was determined that my liver would fail and that the only thing that would save my life was to have a liver transplant. Before 1984, no one west of the Mississippi river had done a liver transplant. Fortunately, UCLA Medical Center and Dr. Busuttil performed the very first liver transplant on February 1, 1984. About two years later since the first transplant and one month before I turned 2, years old, I received my very first liver transplant performed here at UCLA by none other than Dr. Busuttil and his team. I believe I was one of the very first thirty or so patients who have received a liver transplant here and I’m considered as one of their pilot patients during their pioneering days.
Due to the fact that I was just a wee little baby, my thoughts and emotional experiences during my first transplant can only be retold by my parents’ own experiences. Since I was their first child, both went through an emotional roller-coaster. They were afraid that I wouldn’t make it through the intense medical challenges at such a young age especially when it was during UCLA’s pioneering days of Liver Transplantation yet felt so fortunate that liver transplantation was available to save my life. But a week after my transplant, my mom cried tears of joy when she witnessed me laughing and giggling while I was playing kick ball with Dr. Busuttil in the hospital hallway. During my childhood and teenage years, I was still cared for by all the wonderful doctors, nurses, and medical staff at UCLA. As a transplant patient and being on immunosuppressant medications, the Mattel Children's Hospital was a second home due due to common childhood diseases. Since I was always surrounded by amazing physicians, nurses, and medical staff during my childhood, I strived to do well in school so that one day I can be as great as they are. Unfortunately, my first transplant didn't lasted as long as everyone hoped for. I was placed on the waiting list again on January 2000 and received my second transplant 6 months afterwards and one month after I had my sweet 16th birthday.
Growing up and living every day as a two time liver transplant survivor has made me very passionate about helping people, and especially children, affected by transplantation. I volunteer at many organizations like the Painted Turtle Camp, Donate Life, and OneLegacy. I’m also passionate about educating and advocating for donor and tissue registration. As a Donate Life Ambassador, I went to Sacramento and helped support legislation that would promote organ and tissue donation education in high schools, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed laz AB 1967 into law this past September, I was named one of Donate Life America’s 12 Most Inspiring Women of 2012, I’ve volunteered as a decorating supervisor for the Donate Life Rose Parade float for the past four years, and was selected to be this past Donate Life Rose Parade float rider. I’ve been a guest speaker at many medical conferences, symposiums, and ceremonies to prove that organ and tissue donation does work. Now, I’m training to run a half marathon for this year’s upcoming LA Marathon. Without having my liver transplants and my continuing healthcare at UCLA, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do any of this. Other than taking my daily anti-rejection medications every day for the rest of my life, I’m able to live a normal life with little to no limitations
Believe it or not, having two transplants in my lifetime are huge blessings in my life. I’m 28 years old now and I don’t take any advantage that I’ve been a liver transplant survivor for the more than 26 years. I’m able to turn my challenges into greater opportunities. I look forward to continue making a difference in many people’s lives, giving back to the community, especially the UCLA community, to eventually have a beautiful family of my own, have a future filled with many loving memories, and have great relationships with friends and families
For all the doctors, nurses, and staff members at UCLA Medical Center, I want to truly thank you for everything. You have been there for me, made me strong, healthy, happy, and are my role models to make a difference in the world. You guys are the best.