EASTON — For the second time in her still-young life a 24-year-old Easton woman dying of liver failure has received a transplant — and a new lease on life.
The transplant came Thursday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Kristen Everett was just 4 the first time she received a transplanted liver.
Last August, she was placed on the national organ donor list after doctors deemed that an internal stint had failed and a new transplant was needed to save her life.
With her health failing rapidly, Kristen and her mother, Chris Everett, took up temporary residence at the Lied Center in Omaha, a facility next to the hospital, at the end of February so that there would be no delay in getting to the hospital when a call came saying a donor liver had been found.
That call came early Wednesday.
By 5:30 a.m. Larry Everett, her father, was on a plane in Seattle hoping to get to Omaha in time for a hug and a chance to wish her good luck.
By 6 a.m. she was being admitted and prepped while an organ retrieval team acquired the new liver.
Larry Everett’s race to get to Omaha before she entered surgery took a bad turn a few hours later. By 10 a.m., following a plane change in Denver, it was clear he’d have to settle for a phone call.
His flight aborted at take-off due to a fire involving flight instruments. Stuck on the airplane for two hours, he finally spoke with the pilot and explained his situation.
“He said, ‘Let me make a couple of calls’ and came back 45 seconds later and said they were bringing steps up to the plane and would get me on a plane leaving in about 20 minutes,” Everett says.
“Several hours later we would hear the surgeon say it was a perfect textbook procedure.”
Everett said Kristen’s surgery began about 11:15 a.m. and concluded at about 6:45 p.m.
By 9 p.m. Kristen, who had looked “the color of French’s mustard” prior to the surgery, was in intensive care. The jaundice was gone from her hands and feet and retreating from the rest of her body.
A former stand-out volleyball player at Mt. Si High School, Kristen also played the sport in college.
Her commitment to conditioning stood her in good stead in her health battles, he said.
“Due to her ongoing commitment to condition we’re told she is marvelously ahead of normal recovery,” he said. If all goes well, she could be out of the hospital and back at the Leid Center by Tuesday.
But the next three to four days are critical.
They’ll determine whether Kristen’s kidneys have been able to hold up the steroids she has gotten to prevent the liver from being rejected.
“Those next four days are touch-and-go,” Everett said. “If her kidneys don’t hold up her mother is standing by to donate a kidney.”
The key to getting a transplant, Everett has said in the past, is to get sick enough to go to the top of the list without dying. It can be a delicate dance.
“Seventeen people die every day waiting for an organ,” he said. “She got really close. This (organ transplantation) is one of the cures available — if people really care.”
Kristen, a Notre Dame University graduate who was working on a master’s degree in psychology at Notre Dame’s campus in California, plans to return to college after she recovers. Everett said there is the possibility she might eventually work as a psychologist with the transplant team.
Though the surgery is covered, much of the pre- and post-surgery expense is not. Donations to help the family cover those expenses may be sent in Kristen’s name to the Upper County Community Church, P.O. Box 33, Easton WA 98925. Donations to the church are tax-deductible.
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