"Road to a Liveration"
by Kingslea de Roode Merkel
     Marrying the love of my life in November 2010 was the best day of my life..  I felt like a butterfly.  Flying high  overhead at peace, in love, and extremely happy.  
 I woke up and the world was yellow.  I was Jaundice from my scalp to the ends of my toes.  In February of 2011, after undergoing test after test I received the worst news I could ever imagined.  "Your Liver is Dead and there is Nothing else we can do for you."  My thought process went blank, my heart sank and all I could do was to take long deep breaths.  Lets just say, "the honeymoon stage" was over.  Just a few hours after receiving the news from the doctor, my mother had an appointment scheduled for me the next week at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Soon an overwhelming calm came over me because my brother was a patient at Vanderbilt and cured of cancer.  I knew I was going to be consummed with faith and healing hands.  
      The car stopped.  
Once at Vanderbilt I was diagnosed with Cirrhosis Secondary to Non-Alcoholic Liver Disease (jaundice ascites), Liver Failure, Splenomegaly (without thrombocytopenia), Pancreatitis, Hypovitaminosis D, Cholelithiasis, Esophageal Varices, and Hepatic Encephalopathy (liver causing mental impairment).  The next steps on the healing hands road trip involve my weekly routine which includes constant testing, lab work, and a very long list of medications to keep me stable.  Side effects that I live with day in and day out include:  ammonia buildup, swelling, bruising, spider and vericose veins, sleepiness, confusion, dizziness, muscle aches, nausea, getting lost, loss of basic normal functions (walking, holding a glass of water), sluggishness, weakened muscles and bones, non-existence reflexes, weight gain/loss, loss of hair, loss of appetite, uneven hormone levels, sweating, shaking, and halted driving.  Other treatments besides daily mdications include: compression tights, elevation of legs and feet, walking, bike riding, pilates, and a low-sodium eating plan.  Through extensive research I have learned that when people, like myself, have liver failure they 1.  need a transplant. 2.  show improvements throughout time by liver regeneration and are kept stable by medications.  3.  Do well for a period of time but eventually have a build-up of bile and the liver is unable to perform its functions of regulation, synthesis, and secretion, and thus, need a new liver.  We now know my case falls under 1, 2, and 3.  
     Up the rolling hills and down the rolling hills leads us to the MELD Score.
The Model for End-Stage Liver Disease is a scoring system for assessing the severity of chronic liver disease.  This score is now used by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) for prioritizing allocation of liver transplants.  The MELD score uses my values for Bilirubin serum (yellow breakdown, caused by my body's clearance of aged red blood cells), Creatinine serum (indicator of renal function) and the International Normalized Ratio for prothrombin time (INR) to predict my survival rate.  The MELD score ranges from 6- 40.  At Vanderbilt patients like me, with "A" blood type become competitive for organ offers when they have a MELD score of 25+.  
WIthin the time frame of 5 years I have traveled many miles, up and down many rolling hills reaching low exit numbers and very high exit numbers unlisted.  Since the start of 2015 I have gone from an 18 to a 13.  
Down the hills we go; breathing in the crisp fresh air.
     Fast Forward to August 7, 2015.  I am Now Actively Listed on the UNOS Liver Transplant List at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
     I have undergone an extensive series of evaluations to prepare for this challenging "road to a-liveration" and I AM READY!!!  Nevertheless, I have no complaints.  WHile given the growing severity of my current health status, I understand I am an extremely blessed person.  I am loved by so many.  I have a chance.  My other organs are in great shape.  I have a Dream-Team of doctors, nurses, psychologist, nutritionist, and counselors at Vanderbilt that are fully involved in my life. What's difficult and causes heart stopping thoughts is realizing that someone's life must end in order for mine to go on.  I try not to focus on this but only the positives.  Along my "Road to a-liveration," I have put all of my faith in GOD's Hands and I Believe he has a road map for all of us to follow.   The best 34th Birthday gift I could ever receive in December would be the Gift of Life, From my Angel!
***Onto my next jouney...The creation of "The Kingslea Merkel Liver Disease Foundation***
I would like to say "Thank-you" for all of your Support and Prayers.
"To the World you may be One Person, but to the One Person you may be the World."
-Dr.  Seuss