Allison was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease that blocks the flow of bile from the liver to the gallbladder. She had her first surgery at 17 days old, and she endured weekly appointments at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo and bimonthly appointments at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“She had absolutely no quality of life,” Allison’s mom, Jenny, said. “It was an emotional rollercoaster.”
Allison used sign language to communicate because liver failure caused her to be developmentally delayed. At 2 years old, she weighed only 15 pounds, and she would sleep up to 20 hours a day because her energy was zapped.
“The hope for a liver diminished, and I was preparing myself to lose a child,” Jenny said. “Every night, we would put her to bed and pray for just one more day with her.”
In November 2005, when Jenny and her husband, Tommy, felt like the end was near, they took their three children on a trip to Disney World. They thought that was the last time they would all be together.
“We didn’t think she would make it to the end of the year. The doctors said they were taking her week by week because her body was literally shutting down on the inside,” Jenny said. “Every day was our last day.”
But everything changed when Jenny’s phone rang a little after midnight on January 21, 2006. It was Missy, Allison’s transplant coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Allison was going to receive a liver transplant.
“Getting that phone call was unreal. It felt like I was in a dream,” Jenny said.
Jenny called her mom, Becky, who rushed over to stay with Tommy and Jenny’s other children, Nathan, 8, and Hannah, 6. Tommy, Jenny and Allison arrived at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital at 4 a.m.
After one year and nine months on the waiting list, 2-year-old Allison received a life-saving liver transplant.
When Allison woke up after her surgery, the first thing Jenny noticed were the bright whites of Allison’s eyes – they were no longer jaundiced. As Allison recovered, her energy and appetite increased, her distended abdomen became nonexistent, and she started walking and talking.
“It was amazing. It was like life was coming back into her every single day,” Jenny said.
Now, 11-year-old Allison can do everything she wants. The Evergreen Elementary School sixth grader’s seemingly endless supply of energy allows her to play sports and ride horses.
“She plays soccer, and she is the smallest but fastest one on the field. Everyone says ‘Look out for Number 2!’” Jenny said. “Her nickname is Firecracker because she goes nonstop. You just want to scream and shout, ‘This is life!’”
Allison showcased her athleticism at the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style competition for transplant recipients. She competed in the 2012 and 2014 Transplant Games, bringing home 13 medals in swimming and track and field events.
“One of the biggest highlights for me has been seeing Allison at the Transplant Games. The Games are a phenomenal way to express our love and thankfulness for organ donors. It’s a way to show that life goes on,” Jenny said.
Jenny has written to Allison’s donor family, but she has not heard back. All she knows is that another child saved Allison’s life.
“The emotion that donor families have to go through tears me up. It’s an emotional toll to know that we have our 11-year-old daughter, and someone else doesn’t have their 11-year-old child,” Jenny said. “There is no other way to thank donor families than to take care of the life we were given and protect it forever.”
Allison is grateful for the gift she received.
“I love my new liver! My donor gave me the gift of life, so I can do everything my friends do,” Allison said. “I’m healthy, happy and full of life.”