doctor poses with patient mom and medical staffer

Vanessa Zamores is smiling big because she is home for the holidays and ready to ring in the new year.

Zamores, 31, a Redlands native who was working as a teacher in Japan, was rushed home to receive a life-saving liver transplant at Loma Linda University Medical Center on November 26— just seven days after being placed on the transplant list. After a few weeks of intensive care and diligent rehabilitation, Zamores was discharged home.

“It feels so good to spend time with my family,” Zamores says. “I loved living in Japan, but there is so much I missed in six years.”

Six years ago, Zamores left Redlands to become an English teacher in Japan after graduating from University of California, Riverside. Her passion for the culture and desire to continue learning the language led her to her new home.

She says she walked two miles to work every day to enjoy the scenery and clear her head. It wasn’t until one day in October when that same walk brought her fatigue.

At the end of October, her roommate mentioned she was starting to look yellow. That’s when Zamores went to the emergency room. The news she heard next was shocking: she had jaundice.

“I was in disbelief,” Zamores says. “The medical team told me that my only option to live was going back to America to get a liver transplant because the transplant program in Japan was not as expansive and it could be years to find a donor.”

Her medical team in Japan immediately contacted her parents to let her know she would need to come home for care.  Both her medical team and family agreed that she should be taken to Loma Linda University Transplant Institute for care because of its reputation worldwide.

Her family coordinated with the team in Japan to bring her back home. Due to the critical nature of her condition, coupled with her inability to take care of herself, the team offered to fly with her commercially. They helped operate the medical equipment that would keep her stable.

On November 9, she was transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center. Ten days later she was placed on the transplant organ donation list. Within just seven days, she received a liver transplant.

Charles Bratton, MD, Zamores’ transplant surgeon from Loma Linda University Transplant Institute, says he is grateful he and his team were able to bring a family together in time for the holidays.

“Vanessa has recovered well and can now put the transplant behind her and look forward to her future,” Bratton says. “I’m grateful our transplant team is well-versed in providing expert care and has the compassion to fight for every single patient we come in contact with. Because of that, the team was able to orchestrate what may seem like an impossible feat.”

Erin Wells, clinical director for hepatology and liver transplant at Loma Linda University Transplant Institute and her team orchestrated communication with Zamores’s medical team in Japan to save her life. Wells says the team worked diligently across time, language and medical barriers to get Zamores the best care as quickly and safely as possible

“Our team recognizes and honors the fact that in order for one life to be saved a family has to make an altruistic and difficult decision to donate their loved one’s organs,” Wells says. “This fact reinforces our commitment to do everything in our power to give each patient that comes through our doors their best chance.”

Following the transplant, Zamores was in rehabilitation for several weeks at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus because she had muscle atrophy from being bedridden for six weeks. Physicians predicted she would go home by December 27 if she was strong enough.

But Zamores wanted to be home for the holidays. She pushed herself and was able to go home on December 24 — just in time for Christmas.