Saturday, December 4, 2021

21 years ago, Tammi had another chance to live

It was 26 years ago on April 15, 1995 that our 22-year-old daughter Tammi Jo got another chance at living. It seems like yesterday.

For eight years, Tammi had been battling a liver disease, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. She was diagnosed at age 14 and told that she may need a new liver as early as two years hence. She actually went longer than doctors predicted.

Our family who loved Tammi dearly doesn't think of her just on anniversaries like this. She is remembered by many of us every day of the year.

Tammi passed away on Aug. 29, 1995 in surgery having a second transplant, her first transplant being rejected.

However, the memories are sharpened when we think of anniversaries and also take time to read excerpts from a book published in 2012 by myself and wife Judy.

Tammi waited eight years to get a transplant. At age 14, she was told that she may need a new liver as early as two years after her diagnosis.

It doesn't take long to put everything in chronological order about Tammi's fight to live. She was given a gift of life by a donor's family. It was that unselfish decision by a family of a 32-year-old from Roseville that gave Tammi a new liver.

Reading from our book on Tammi, "Never Forgotten," we read: "Tammi was a fighter from the moment she was born. She was born with her umbilical cord around her neck and nearly didn't make it. She was a little wiggle worm in her infant days. She bonded closely with her mother, father and with her brother Troy."

When talking about her liver disease during her late teens, Tammi said rather matter of fact: "This is the hand I was dealt."

She had faith that she would be given a new liver. That reality came true on April 13, 1995, Good Friday.

She was a patient at University Hospital in Minneapolis at the time. She called home and told Judy and me that her surgeon, Dr. William Payne, had called her and said she would be getting her new liver the next day, the day before Easter.

A neighbor of ours in Forest Lake at the time was a nurse at University Hospital. Carol Hallin actually wheeled Tammi into surgery, a surgery that lasted 12 hours.

As we waited as a family for Tammi to come out of surgery, another family was in the same waiting room. Their daughter and sibling was getting a lung transplant. The lungs and the liver came from the same donor.

After Dr. Payne told us the surgery was successful, we rejoiced as a family and visited her in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as soon as we could.

Tammi was connected to a breathing apparatus and showed a determination to convince the nurses that she needed the breathing tube removed.

As we visited with Tammi in ICU, we could see the jaundice literally drain from her eyes. She also was breathing on her own.

Her recovery sped right along during the days that followed. We remember spending around the clock hours with Tammi. On one day, we were riding an elevator going to Tammi's floor with her surgeon, Dr. Payne. He told us that a bomb had killed 168 people and injured many others.

We kept a 16-day vigil on Tammi until her release from University Hospital to come home on May 1, 1995. We remember that day clearly as we arranged for a Lincoln Town Car to pick her up and take her the 19 miles home from Minneapolis to Forest Lake.

Judy always said, during Tammi's recovery, that time can be your "best friend" at times and "worst enemy" at other times.

We miss Tammi, remembering her in many stages of life as we reflect to that Good Friday night when she received a telephone call telling her of an impending miracle.

We read from "Never Forgotten,"Tammi's glowing smile will continue to shine through all of us who knew her. Tammi had that natural smile, her entire face accented by her eyes, displaying true unconditional love. Tammi loved life, lived it to the fullest and loved people.

"Tammi's friends and family were tops on her list and she wanted to be with them as much as possible."

We don't have Tammi physically but we have many memories of her that keep us strong and give us HOPE to some day join her above. Tammi's death was a loss for many, her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Tammi will live in our hearts forever.

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