No stopping now for liver transplant candidate with Hepatitis C.
By looking at Pati Hughes-Fudge, you wouldn’t necessarily know that she is sick, let alone guess that she is currently at the top of the list to receive a liver transplant.
“I get that I don’t look sick a lot,” says Pati, who—despite living with Hepatitis C and a tumor in her liver that threatens her life— keeps a positive attitude. She has spent the last six years on the wait list for a liver she is hoping to get any minute. In the meantime, she continues to create awareness about organ, eye, and tissue donation.
Pati lives in Tres Pinos , California, and enjoys gardening and riding motorcycles, but she gets special fulfillment when training young horses on multiple disciplines, including horses she trains for competitions. Unfortunately, these activities are now on hold until she can get a transplant.
After undergoing a blood transfusion in 1975 following the C-section delivery of her daughter, Pati became infected with Hepatitis C, a disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Bizarrely, she learned that she might be infected, when in 2000, a hospital in Colorado sent her a letter indicating they were in the middle of destroying old records and she might be part of a large group of people that tested positive.
“When I was working with the horses, I felt tired all the time and sometimes I couldn’t even move….. I thought I felt that way because I was working long hours, 7 day a week,” says Pati who took on the advice of a friend who told her to get tested for Hepatitis C. She was still shocked to learn of the positive diagnosis.
It was during this time that her journey of medical visits began; she was seen by a gastroenterologist in Reno, and participated in trial drug test rounds that took her from northern Nevada to southern California. None of the drugs worked, and she was eventually seen by a liver specialist at Stanford Hospital. She was soon listed as a candidate for liver transplant.
While attending a support group for transplant recipients and waiting patients at Stanford, Pati met Kathy Clark, Volunteer Program Manager at Donor Network West, the organ procurement organization that serves 40 counties in northern California and Nevada. “She talked to us about her own experience as a liver recipient and told me that I could make a difference by sharing my story and I said ‘sign me up’,” says Pati, who admitted that her son had to convince her to go to the meeting.
In her five years as a volunteer with Donor Network West, Pati has shared her story with thousands of people at health fairs, DMV offices, high schools, and sports events with the goal of inspiring them to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors .It hasn’t been a smooth ride. She suffered two major bleeds that almost killed her; one in 2010 and another in 2014. But , she is staying as strong and positive as possible.
“Not a lot of people survive 40 years of illness and a six-year wait; I can’t give up now. If I can’t do anything else with my life, if I can save at least one person then I have done my part.”