From Apprehension To Appreciation
Karen Paulick is a dedicated LI TRIO member and lives with her husband Walter and son Jeffrey in Riverhead, New York. She volunteered for years at her son’s elementary school, teaches Sunday school and loves to sew.
Karen created the quilt pictured here. All of the Memory Quilt squares were created by donor families and transplant recipients to commemorate their loved ones. Thanks to NYODN for the coordination and thanks to Karen for her sewing techniques and dedication.
Surrounding the squares on each panel are the first names of transplant recipients. Although for confidentiality reasons they are not linked to the donors memorialized on the panels, they symbolize “the circle of life”.
I spoke with Karen on September 2, 2014 and she stated that on September 8th, it will be 18 years since she had her liver transplant at The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Thomas Starzl pioneered the liver transplant and was still on staff at UPMC. Karen’s life was forever changed on the morning of September 8th.
Karen continues: “I continue to live a full and healthy life with my husband, Walter and son Jeffrey.”
Life has new meaning for me since my liver transplant in September 1996.
I had hoped when I was first diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis in 1986 that medical technology would come up with a cure for the condition, so I wouldn’t need a transplant. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about this disease, and I joined the ALF. This group was supportive and helped me to deal with this new life- threatening problem. At first, I must say I thought I would beat this “thing.” I did everything I could to improve my set of circumstances, including eating well, getting lots of exercise, and maintaining a positive attitude. I even tried some of the techniques taught by Dr. Bernie Siegal, such as relaxation and imaging. These all worked to help me deal with my situation as best as I could, but nevertheless the condition of my liver continued a slow downward spiral.
I had been an elementary school teacher for 15 years, when my son was born in 1989. At that time I decided to leave teaching. Some of the symptoms of the disease, including fatigue and itching, were becoming unbearable.
I decided what energy I did have should be devoted to raising this little “miracle” of mine. I continued to see my doctor in New York, and we tried new medicines. Still, I was hopeful that I could put off getting a transplant for as long as possible. My problems escalated in the spring of 1995. I was spending a lot of time going to the doctor for stomach problems and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. This was causing me to lose weight and to have even less energy. Finally, in February of 1996, I was advised by doctors to get to a hospital to be evaluated for a liver transplant. I chose the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and went there immediately.
When I left there I knew the time was getting close. I prepared my family and hoped for the best.
I got the call that a donor liver was available, and the operation was performed on Sept. 8, 1996.
I wish I had done it sooner. Before my transplant I truly thought the experience would be much worse. I really haven’t had any side effects from the medicines except for some weight gain from prednisone. Everyone tells me I look wonderful. This is a pleasant remark to hear since I looked and felt quite sick before the operation.
Now I try to spread the word about organ donation to everyone I meet. I believe I have an obligation to my donor and donor family to make other people aware of organ donation. I’m so pleased to be a member of Long Island TRIO.
It was a success, things went smoothly, and I was released from the hospital within two weeks. Now that I’ve experienced a transplant and its benefits, I really believe that receiving an organ transplant is truly a miracle. I think about it often and marvel that doctors are able to give new life to someone.
I feel that I have energy I never knew was possible. I am active and am exercising regularly and enjoying life to its fullest. If anyone asked me if I would I go through the surgery again, I’d say, “Absolutely!”
Going through all the tests and evaluations was time consuming. I spent several days in Pittsburgh having my body examined and going through lots of blood work (I hate blood work!), having my body examined and going through lots of blood work! (I hate blood work!) It was worth it.
Since I live so far from the meeting location, I can’t do much on the meeting level. I do try to do all that I can to spread the word about organ donation to friends, family and anyone who will listen. I had a magnetic sign made for the back of my van that says, “Make a Miracle – Be an Organ Donor” and has the LI TRIO tree of life logo. I hope people will be affected when they see it. Sitting in traffic on the LIE should be good publicity.
It’s my hope is everyone knows that donating organs saves lives. It sure saved mine!