A second chance at life

It's the ultimate gift one can give to another: the gift of life. The simple act of putting a red dot on a driver's license can save the lives of many.

It took just one person who said yes to organ donation that helped give Annie Fuglevand a second chance at life.

Her story is an inspiration. Through all the hardships and struggles, Fuglevand's faith grew stronger and helped her appreciate what is really important in life.

"I am just so grateful for everything," she said.


Fulgevand, 18, was born with a complex heart and liver disorder that has caused her many complications throughout her life. Because her liver did not function normally, her bones were brittle and she was constantly tired and feeling run-down.

In August 2006 she started getting sicker, and she only attended a few days of her senior year at Bishop Blanchet High School last September. The rest of her time was spent at home.

In January, she was placed on the transplant list.

"I was heartbroken that I wasn't going to be able to go back to school and finish my senior year. But I knew in my heart that God had a plan for me," Fuglevand wrote in her blog.

"It got to the point where the doctor said she only had a couple of months to live," said Paul Fuglevand, her father. "She has a very rare blood type, and if she were to get a liver, it would have had to have been the right size and [be] healthy. The odds were pretty low."


On Wednesday, March 14, a handful of friends from Fuglevand's youth group went over to her house for their weekly session; it was Fuglevand's turn to lead the talk this week.

Immediately after she finished speaking, the phone rang. It was a nurse calling from Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center to tell Fuglevand and her family that she had a liver waiting for her.

"I was really scared to death. I was grateful and scared at the same time. I was thinking 'Why does this have to be now?' It was God working in a mysterious way," she said.

"It was very hard for us," said Fuglevand's father. "It was good news and bad news. It was like getting hit by a train. There were lots of tears and emotions. But, luckily, Annie's friends were there for support and for prayers."

Her friends recall the time right before she went into surgery.

"Our friend came and played guitar, serenading her," said Emily Gilbert, a junior at Blanchet. "I remember Annie falling asleep to the music, and it was at that time I felt the most peace."

Fuglevand received a healthy liver on March 15. A standard liver transplant takes six to eight hours, but due to her situation, hers took 19. Recovery time is generally about two weeks, but for Annie it took four.

All of her previous health issues made it a more difficult process, but it was just another one of those instances where prayers were answered.

"I have felt God in my life from when I was very young. I have experienced many small miracles where he has touched my life and healed me physically or given me peace, joy and strength in the midst of struggles," Fuglevand wrote in her blog.

"I think God wants us to turn to him in our troubles; he wants us to take a step towards him through prayer," she added. "And when we do take a little step towards God, he takes a big step towards us."


Friends and family were very supportive throughout this time. The school sent cards and videos to Fuglevand during her recovery. The outpouring of love and care helped her get through each day, she said.

Fuglevand's first outing was May 5, when she attended her senior prom, something she thought would be impossible. She then returned to Blanchet for the first time since Sepember on Friday, May 18. Their support was evident.

"We were ecstatic to have her back here," said Chuck Bocian, vice principal of Student Life. "It's good for the soul and spirit of Blanchet. It was especially nice for the seniors to see their fellow classmate again after hearing about Annie all year. It was just very good for the school to have a visual sign that she has been doing well."

Fuglevand will return to her senior class on June 2. According to Bocian, she has been working with her counselor and academic assistant principal regarding the work she has missed. Fuglevand will still be able to go through graduation, although there still may be some work she will need to complete over the summer.

"If that one person didn't say yes to being an organ donor I wouldn't be here," Fuglevand said during a school assembly in her honor. "It gave me another chance at life. You guys can really save someone's life by saying yes to organ donation."

Molly Schoeb, the youth-education program manager for Living Legacy, described the impact that organ donation can have. Living Legacy is a nonprofit organization educating on organ and tissue donation.

According to Schoeb, more than 95,000 people in the United States are waiting for a life-saving transplant; 18 pass away daily while waiting. And one donor can help save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people through organ and tissue donation.

"I am forever grateful for that one person who decided to make their liver available if that situation came up," said Fuglevand's father. "It was Annie's one chance. And through all the hardships, it has shaped her into the person she is.

"We would never trade the last 18 years," he continued. "All the blessings have affected our relationship with each other and have brought us closer as a family."

"I am planning on writing [the family of] my donor a letter because I do not know who they are because of privacy issues," Fuglevand said. "Hopefully, I can talk to them as soon as possible and thank them for the gift of life and for giving me a second chance."

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