Cherie Graupman began suffering with stomach related health problems in 1989. Her condition reached a terrifying point one day in July 2011.
“I worked that day but I have no memory of it. My coworkers knew I wasn’t feeling well and wanted to drive me home. But I insisted I drive myself. I do not remember that trip.”
“When I pulled into the driveway, my husband and one of my sons was working on a mower in the yard. They told me that I opened the car door, fell out and was bleeding heavily.”
Cherie was taken by helicopter to the closest critical care unit to the family’s Perry, Missouri, farm for life-saving emergency surgery.
Due to diabetes, Cherie had Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) that had reached a point where it was destroying her liver. Her care team did not know how advanced the condition had become until she collapsed on the driveway.
Cherie underwent difficult and complex treatments for the symptoms of her liver failure for another three years – including having several liters of fluid drained from her body three times a week, needing oxygen to breathe, and frequent hospitalizations because of mental confusion related to ammonia build-up that traveled to her brain. Cherie’s husband, David, shared his duties maintaining the family farm with their three children so he could be his wife’s primary caregiver.
“It was very painful for him to watch me go through that, and our children as well.”
By January 2, 2014, the only option left for Cherie was a transplant. She became Number 3 on the liver transplant list at the Kansas University Hospital Transplant Center.
“I was hopeful, but did not dream it would happen so fast.”
On March 17, 2014 – a day known for luck - Cherie’s life changed. During a 55-minute surgery she received the liver of a woman who had been killed in an accident as she bicycled.
“The first thing I remember when I woke up was that my skin was not yellow anymore (yellowish skin color – known as jaundice – is a symptom of liver disease) and I could breathe easier. I felt like I was going to be okay.”
And nine years later….
Cherie is on daily medication, gets lab work every few months and has annual follow-up appointments at the transplant center. But compared to 2011, she calls her health today “excellent.” Cherie is a grandmother of nine and receptionist at the Blessing Health clinic in Paris, Missouri.
“I would not be here if it weren’t for the fact that before my donor died unexpectedly she had told her family what she wanted and signed the back of her driver’s license. I am not sure that before I had this experience, I would have realized how important that is.”
“My heart breaks for her family and I pray for them every day. I am in touch with her daughter and two sisters. I am so grateful that my donor chose to leave behind the gift of life.”
Cherie is paying it forward. A number of her family members, friends and acquaintances are card-carrying donors as a result of her experience, who have informed their families of their desire to donate organs should the time come.
For more information on organ donation and becoming a potential donor, go to blessinghealth.org/donatelife.