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I called my husband and said, “I don’t want to live any longer. I can’t go on fighting.” Then I found out I was pregnant.

“When presented with a circumstance that is life or Ԁеаtһ, the only option you have is to fight for your survival. At the age of six weeks, I was given a diagnosis with biliary atresia. My struggle to stay alive and to continue living started at this point. It had never occurred to me to quit, but I wasn’t prepared for the ongoing mental war that I would have to engage in.

My parents were given a pamphlet on the day that the doctors broke the news to them that I had been born with a congenital abnormality to my liver and that I would suffer from a chronic sickness. The booklet’s purpose was to assist us in preparing for the surgery by providing information on the various components of the procedure, including preparation, recovery, and the potential physical side effects that I might encounter. On the other hand, it did not address or make any preparations for how my mental and emotional condition was going to be affected by it.

When I started attending middle school, everything was different. I couldn’t help but evaluate my appearance in relation to that of the other girls and how they presented themselves. I first became aware of the rumors that were being spread about me by my classmates. They could not comprehend how I could have been at school one day, and then all of a sudden be absent for two weeks, coming back each time claiming that I had broken my arm. I would wrap the hand and arm that was attached to an IV not because I wanted to protect it but because I was too embarrassed to tell the other children that I had been in the hospital. Because I was so embarrassed by who I was and how different I was from other people, I began to put up barriers. I felt like I was going to blow my top because I had so much rage bottled up inside of me at the time. I looked around at my other students and at my brother, and I wished with all of my heart that I could be one of them. I can’t count the number of times I cried myself to sleep, wondering why this was happening to me. Acceptance was the only thing I wished for. What I lacked was the ability to accept myself and love who I was in that moment.

My first year of high school had finally arrived, and with it came the opportunity for a new beginning at a different school. I was overjoyed that I had avoided going to the hospital for the past seven months, as this indicated that my freshman year was almost over and that no one would remember me as the sick kid. Things quickly changed for the worse when I awoke one morning in so much pain that I was unable to bear it. My family took me to the emergency room once more as soon as they could. This infection was by far the worst of any I’ve ever had. My liver has pretty much completely ceased working. My eyes had turned an entirely yellow color. It looked like someone had hit me because the color of my arms and legs turned blue and purple. Anything that came into contact with me felt like it was sticking me with needles since my blood contained bile. When I thought about coming back to school, all that went through my head was, “What are people going to say about me this time?”

I was ultimately able to convince them to allow me receive homecare so that I could return to school and continue living my normal life. A few weeks later, as was typical for me, I was scheduled for an appointment at the clinic. When it was time to go in, I didn’t give it a second thought. I had heard it said on more than one occasion in the past that a liver transplant would one day be an option. I had no idea that day was today. When I arrived at the clinic that morning, the attending physician informed my family that only ten percent of my liver was functioning normally. Not only did they not understand how I had managed to live for such a long time on my own liver, but they also insisted that I get added to the transplant list as soon as possible. I was completely unable of even comprehending what it was that he had just told me. The only thing that stands out in my memory is the sound of my mother sobbing, and then I recall them discussing when the testing would begin. I had the impression that this was a dream. I was having a terrifying dream.

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After a few weeks had passed, I was formally put on the transplant list, which meant that my team had everyone’s contact information ready in the event that the call came. Approximately nine months had passed since I had been included on the list. At this point, I had made the conscious decision to stop thinking about getting the call off my mind since, else, it would have drove me completely insane with worry every time the phone rang.

Every week on Wednesday evening, my family and I attended the church where my father served as pastor. I had a habit of leaving my phone behind at night, but on this particular evening, something compelled me to retrieve it. Throughout the time that we were in praise and worship, I could feel my phone vibrating. After the third call, I made the decision to go out into the hall to check it, thinking that my friend was trying to get in touch with me through the phone. I became aware that I had a voicemail. What it said to Hannah will be something I never forget: “Hannah, we have a liver for you.” It is imperative that you get in touch with me as soon as humanly possible. My hand slipped, and I lost control of the phone as it fell to the ground. I was in complete shock. I was completely at a loss for what to do. I returned to the chapel feeling numb on the inside, and as I approached my mother, I mumbled, “I got the call, Mom.” They have a liver for me,’ as tears started running down my face. She turned into a ghostly white. She walked up onto the stage, grabbed my father, and then informed him of the news. As he apologized to everyone and said, “I am sorry but church is over,” he started crying. Because Hannah answered the phone, we cannot linger any longer. My only concern was getting in touch with my sister in Texas to find out whether or not she would be able to attend. I knew that if she were present, I would be able to do this task.

On Friday at five in the morning, my family and I arrived at the emergency room of the children’s hospital for the most significant operation of my entire life. My mother and sister were there to accompany me into the operating room as they wheeled me in. The surgical room seemed icy and unsettling to be in. The only things I could make out were the knives and other implements that were about to be used against me. As I continued to glance around, my anxiety level started to rise. When they started to tie me down, I completely lost it and tears started streaming down my face. They put me on the table and started the process. I responded with a resounding “No, I can’t do this.” I have had enough.’ My mother and sister both reached for my hands in an attempt to reassure me. I woke up from anesthesia and surgery in a lot of pain, yet I felt better overall than I ever had before. I will never forget how delighted I was to finally be a normal kid and how I expressed my excitement to my family.

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After a few months had passed, I decided to return to school with the expectation that everything would be different now and that I would finally be able to let down my guard and make new friends. I was surprised when I realized that the issue was not related to my health. It was how I reflected on the circumstances of my life. I was finally healthy, but I was still the same insecure girl who was embarrassed by her new scars and the stretch marks that had appeared on my stomach as a result of how large it had been. I still wished I was someone else. I spent the following few years trying to make up for the time I had missed with my friends by spending as much time as I could with them. On the outside, it appeared as though I was having the time of my life, but on the inside, I was incredibly miserable and angry at the world. Because of all that had happened to me, I had the feeling that I was entitled to some sort of reward or compensation.

Things started to go in a different direction five years after I had my first transplant. I began getting sick again. At the time, I was dating a man who was really committed to our relationship and I was living in Texas at the time. I had to tell him that I was going to have to move back in with my parents. He made the decision to travel with me, and the next thing either of us knew, we were settling into our new home in Colorado. Even though I was relieved to have him there with me, I couldn’t help but feel guilty and ashamed about the past. I always felt horrible that my family had to spend so much money on me and that they had to spend the majority of their time accompanying me to the hospital. In addition to this, I was aware that they were my family and loved me. When it came to him, things were different. I was afraid that I would never measure up to his expectations, and that he deserved someone more capable than I was. I always had the feeling that I ought to make up for every time he had to take me to the hospital by doing something nice for him. I have allowed myself to believe each and every one of these untrue statements about myself.

The next thing I knew, I was being informed that I would require a second transplant. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to go through with it. I was now married, and my new husband was ready to go through something for which he could receive no preparation whatsoever. We came to the conclusion together that we should do this, and just over a year later, a phone call at five in the morning brought about a second major shift in my life. This transplant experience was nothing at all like the one I had previously. At the moment, I was completely unaware that the year that would follow would turn out to be the most challenging year I had ever experienced. I have no doubt in my mind that God put Ryan in my life to provide me with something other than myself to fight for during that school year. If things had gone differently, I‘m not sure I would have survived.

Many times, I remember looking in the mirror at my frail body with tubes coming out of everywhere, thinking it would be easier on myself and my family if I didn’t wake up the next morning. I didn’t even recognize the girl staring back at me. I’d lost all motivation, tenacity, and enthusiasm for life.

I remember telling my husband one afternoon that I didn’t want to live any longer. I couldn’t fight any longer. I was tired and felt sorry for myself. I had reached rock bottom and had two options: either get up or lay down and Ԁiе.

I chose to get back up and fight again. Thankfully, I did because we discovered I was pregnant in March of 2017. We were shocked because I had always been told that I couldn’t have children. It never ceases to amaze me how many odds I’ve overcome in my life. I realized I needed to get my mental health under control after welcoming our precious baby girl into the world. She deserved the best version of herself.

‘How did you do it?’ people ask. ‘How did you overcome so much and maintain such a positive outlook on life?’ Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea how to respond to that question. The difficult part was not my physical health issues. When something like that is placed in front of you, you have no choice but to fight. My thoughts were the source of my suffering. I had this strong persona that gave the impression that I had everything under control. I thought being vulnerable was a sign of weakness, so I struggled on the inside for 28 years with no one knowing.

I wish someone had shaken me a long time ago and shown me all of the beautiful gifts I possessed. For so long, I saw my story through the eyes of a ‘poor me’ mentality and missed all of its beautiful aspects. What if we looked at our situation as if we had been chosen rather than picked on? For the first time, I began to love myself and realized I wasn’t a burden to anyone. In fact, they saw me as a source of inspiration for them.

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We all have unique stories and experiences that we cannot always control. What we can change is how we think about our situation. I began to look back on my life and be thankful that I had learned to persevere in the face of adversity. I had faith in a strength deep within myself. Nothing, I knew, could ever take that away from me. I had a miracle baby and a loving and supportive family. My life has never been easy, but I chose to make my pain my purpose, and when that happened, everything inside of me changed.

I hope everyone who reads this remembers that what happens to you is not as important as what you do with it. Your circumstances do not define who you are or make you less valuable than others. You are more than sufficient. When you open up and recognize that your mind is the most powerful and valuable tool you have, you will inspire others. Your life begins to change when you fill it with positive thoughts and love.”

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