Two women holding easter wreaths

Susan Jackson, on the right, happily holds an Easter wreath, thriving and well after a liver transplant in October 2018.

Today, Susan Jackson has the ability to help her youngest son with his homework, be a mother to the rest of her family, be a wife, and live her life full again because of the altruistic act of a deceased organ donor last year. For April’s National Donate Life Month, the 56-year-old liver transplant patient wants to share her story.

Something as simple as helping her son with his homework still brings tears to Jackson’s eyes when she explains what seems like a miracle.

“When my liver was failing and I was waiting for a transplant, some days I would not make sense when I would talk,” Jackson says. “I was so ill that I would try to help him with his homework and I couldn’t because he couldn’t understand me. It was devastating.”

Now, the mother of three is dedicated to spending every moment with her family and continuing to nourish her marriage. For the five years she waited for a transplant, Jackson says her husband was her lifeline. He took her to every appointment, handled the finances and stepped up for her family in ways she couldn’t.

The San Bernardino resident is now grateful that she is here today because she says God heard her life-saving prayers. 

But her life-saving transplant was a moment Jackson never thought would come. She was on the waiting list for five years before her transplant in 2018. During those five years, she had two false hopes that would leave her more and more discouraged.

When an organ is made available for a patient, two recipients are called. One is for back-up in case the first one on the list is unable to receive the donation. Through tears, Jackson retells how she was called twice for back-up and every time was excited to be chosen until she was told it was not her time.

“I was happy for the patient who did receive the liver, but it was tough to be sent back home when I was ready to get my life back,” Jackson says. “That is when I really pled to God to please save my life because if I got a second chance, I would not let him down.”

Indeed, the third time was the charm. On her third call, she was first on the list and was transplanted in October. 

Her transplant hepatologist, Michael L. Volk, MD, division head of Loma Linda University’s gastroenterology and hepatology department, says it’s cases like these that remind the team why working in the field of organ transplantation is so rewarding.

“It’s always amazing to see patients transform from deathly ill to vibrant and functional in the course of several months,” Volk says. “I would encourage everyone reading this to take out your driver’s license right now — if there’s not a red circle saying ‘donor’ by the bottom right of our picture, please go to the DMV to sign up!”

In last year alone, the LLU Transplant Institute performed 81 liver transplants, all from deceased individuals who had selflessly agreed to donate. 

You never know whose life you will save through organ donation. If you would like to learn more about organ donation and how you can participate please visit the Loma Linda University Transplant Institute’s website or call 800-548-3790.