The Power of Prayer
Mar 19, 2019
The Power of Prayer
Our daughter, Brianna, learned very early in life that her journey in this world would be very special.
It took a liver biopsy done when she was 6 months old and having a piece of her tiny liver flown to Pennsylvania and London to finally get her diagnosed. It turned out that she was born with a liver condition so rare, that could only be diagnosed in London, by the top specialist in PFIC. Brianna had been born without the liver enzyme necessary to allow her body to process bile. The term "Progressive Familial Intrahepatic Cholestasis" became part of our daily lives ever since.
Brianna learned all about her condition early in life and has fought through it like a real champ. At only 9 years old, she has already endured a liver biopsy, several birthdays in hospitals, doctor visits, innumerable needle sticks, blood transfusions, heart surgery, and now a liver transplant. Brianna is the bravest, most courageous girl, and throughout her battle with PFIC, her unrelentless faith has never faltered. She loves God with all her heart and trusts Him with her life as no one I have ever known. Too young to be an altar server in St. Stephen, she had her grandparents also bring her to Mass in Resurrection, where she enrolled for altar server training and served Fr. Eugene on the altar with the most seriousness and deep responsibility for her role. Her prayerful life is an example to us, and her faith is evident to all who know her. This has helped her live through some very difficult times.
Among the side effects that Brianna has learned to live with, were severe itchiness, fatigue, and visible jaundice, which had people constantly asking her why her skin and eyes were so “yellow.” She took all people's comments to heart always with a smile. Her life was filled with medications, routine and emergency doctor visits, tests, and recurring blood work. This grew to be her norm. She soon proved to be the strongest member of our family and the only one who could handle and fight through this terrible condition. Once her liver functions started to decline, doctors believed her listing for organ transplantation could no longer wait. We tried not to think of this day and hoped it would be postponed while a miracle in technology found a cure for PFIC.
In September of 2018, Brianna was finally listed on the national transplant list. From this point forward, our family planned life day by day, not knowing when we would get “the call.” January 27th, 2019 is a day we will remember forever. Though we were waiting for this call, it still was the scariest moment of our lives and nothing we could have ever prepared for.
Our family had just gone grocery shopping for the week after a weekend full of basketball games for Brianna’s older brother, Brianna’s haircut--that she had been anxious to get, and some shopping. We had packed it all into a fun weekend before things got very scary for us. “We have an offer for you from a 13-year-old donor who just passed away.” After receiving two previous offers, we knew it was the right time and the right offer.
All sorts of emotions ran through our minds, and one of the hardest things to do was break the news to Brianna as to why we were packing our bags on a Sunday night for what could potentially be a two to three month stay away from home. Our family drove to Miami on a rainy Sunday night for what we knew was going to be the hardest 24 hours of our lives. I could not stop thinking about the donor’s family and the pain that they had to be going through having lost their 13-year-old son. At the same time, I knew we owed them the world for making the decision to donate his organs during such a tragic time and wondered how we could ever repay them. We prayed for them throughout our long and rainy drive south. We also prayed for the doctors who were going to be operating on my daughter for 8 very long hours and asked God to give us the strength to allow us to trust them with her life. We prayed for the harvesting team and those doctors who were flying to pick up the liver from the deceased child during such terrible weather.
While driving through Ft. Myers, we received a call from the Transplant team who said the surgery time had been postponed from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. the next day, as, due to severe weather, they were not going to be able to travel to get the organ that night. We truly believe this was God’s working, who wanted everyone to stay safe, have us slow down, ensure the doctors had a safe flight in clearer weather, and make sure everyone was well-rested for the big day.
The next morning, we arrived at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami bright and early for Brianna’s big day. By then, the prayer chains had already been set in motion and countless messages from people praying for our little girl started coming through from South America, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Africa, and all over the United States. This gave us such comfort and truly helped us stay calm and be able to stay strong for her during this extremely nerve-wracking time for all of us, but especially for Brianna. With confidence in the Lord, we were able to focus on making the appropriate decisions for our little girl.
When we arrived in the pre-op room, we asked for a priest to come and give Brianna the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. This dear priest rushed to the hospital, prayed with us, and with her nurses and once again put our nerves at ease. At 2:30 p.m. they arrived at her room to take her to the Operating Room. At this point, I wanted to break down in tears and hold her as tight as I could, but I knew I had to be strong for her. My husband and I walked her down to the OR and met with the anesthesiologists and the transplant team who assured us she was in good hands and explained some medications and procedures to us. We kissed her many, many times and let her know we would be by her side when she woke up. We left her in God’s hands for the longest six hours we had ever experienced. We received updates every two hours and after six hours, the transplant surgeon came to our waiting room to let us know surgery was successful and Brianna was able to receive the full liver from her donor with no complications. Praise the Lord, for He is good, and His love endures forever! This was music to our ears. We could not believe the surgery and the entire day had gone by so smoothly. Truly, God watched over our Bri, her transplant team, and all of us through every step of the way.
Brianna was brought into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on a ventilator with many lines and monitors. It was extremely difficult for us to see her this way, but she managed to open her eyes for us and give our hand a tight squeeze to show how strong she was and that she was ready to fight through this recovery process. The next morning, she surprised us all and woke up requesting to be extubated. Her words of gratitude to everyone for their prayers included, “I’ve got this!"
Her pain level was managed well and two days later she went back into surgery for full closure as the swelling had gone down. That surgery also went very well and before I could finish giving updates to our family and friends, she was brought back from the OR. Two days after the second surgery, the nurses had Brianna out of bed and sitting in a chair and a day later she was taking steps and out of the PICU. Brianna had one complication during her hospital stay, as she spiked a very high fever due to what the doctors believe was a reaction to one of her medications. A week and a half later, she was given the green light to leave the hospital. This was her goal from the moment she was admitted, and our little warrior wasn’t going to give up until she reached it.
The kindness and love of friends, family, physicians, nurses, and prayer warriors was made evident in so many ways. A lifetime of thanking everyone would not suffice. We continue this journey with a long recovery ahead of us, as she is extremely immuno-suppressed to avoid her body from rejecting the new liver and can catch any lingering illnesses very quickly, but what she has already gone through is more than half the battle.
Doctors are ecstatic and have no explanation to her extremely-quick recovery and the unusual minimal complications, other than all the prayers around the world asking for God’s workings. The unbelievable amount of people praying for our Brianna has yielded amazingly powerful results. God and Our Lady have watched over her and guided every step of her recovery. There is no other explanation for it!
We would like to extend our gratitude to all of St. Stephen Catholic School, St. Stephen Parish, and the Resurrection Catholic Church community for their continued support and abundance of prayers, which have allowed Brianna to recover so amazingly, so quickly, and so well. We ask everyone to continue with prayers for our princess warrior as her life goes on this new post-transplant phase.
And lastly, we ask all of you for continuous prayers for the young man who gave our daughter the gift of life and for his family, may God grant him eternal peace and Our Sweet Mother give consolation to his family and, in time, may them know the joy they have given us and the sweet, beautiful girl they allowed to live. God bless them!