A friend once asked Lucie Gleason, “Is your hair naturally curly?” Her joking reply? “No, I had a really bad perm once.”
If the explanation were only that simple.
At age five, Lucie was a healthy, gregarious child with thick, straight hair. Like any child, she had her whole life ahead of her. Today, she is a healthy, gregarious teenager with curly hair. And her whole life remains ahead of her — thanks to a liver transplant.
Just before starting kindergarten, Lucie fell ill with a high fever that wouldn’t subside. After her stomach began to hurt, her doctors ordered a CAT scan. The results showed a rare and rapidly growing tumor in her liver. Lucie began intense chemotherapy to treat the cancer. As her hair fell out and her small body weakened, the tumor — the size of a small Nerf football — grew rapidly out of control. Her last and best hope was a liver transplant.
“We prayed so hard for a miracle,” says Lucie’s mother, Leah.
In July 2003, that miracle arrived: A donated liver for Lucie became available. Her cancerous liver was removed, and surgeons transplanted part of a liver donated by a man who had registered to become an organ donor upon his death. The larger part of his liver — the only human organ that can regenerate — was transplanted into a woman who had been on the transplant waiting list for some time, the Gleasons later learned. His generosity save two people’s lives.
After her transplant, Lucie returned to health. Her once-straight hair started to grow back curly, and she was strong enough to join her kindergarten class that fall.
Four years after her liver transplant, doctors told the Gleasons that Lucie was cancer-free. Today, 10 years after her transplant, she remains robustly healthy. A high school honor student who enjoys lacrosse, cake decorating and face painting, Lucie also volunteers for and promotes causes related to cancer awareness, liver disease and organ donation.
“Because of the transplant, Lucie can look forward to a long life,” says Leah, an Advocates of Hope volunteer with Gift of Hope.
Lucie recently received her driver’s permit and fully understands the significance of joining the state organ and tissue donor registry, which people can do when obtaining their driver’s licenses. “I cannot thank my donor and his family enough for giving me a second chance at life,” she says. “I think about him all the time and the unselfish step he took to register as a donor. He will always be a hero to me.”