Second Chance After Liver Disease
WAUKESHA - What would you do with a second chance at life? 20-year-old Brianne Catarozoli got exactly that, and is now an inspiration to others.
Whether she's running cross country, doing homework, or just watching TV... Brianne is like any other 20-year-old college student.... with a 51-year-old liver!
"It's something that's cool to me. I have an organ that's older than me. I joke about it with my teammates. Like we're doing sit-ups, and I'm like 'Oww, my liver', and they all laugh." Bree exclaims.
She can joke now, but 10 months ago, Bree was in a dire situation--get a new liver, or possibly die.
"At the time in the hospital, I didn't think I understood how serious it was," Bree admits.
It all started when Bree lost her appetite and felt tired at track practice at Carroll University in Waukesha.
"I was definitely scared. I remember the doctor kept telling me don't be scared. I was like, 'How can I not be scared'?" Bree recalls.
Doctors diagnosed her with Wilson's disease. It's a rare genetic disorder of the liver. Dr. Jose Franco is Bree's Hepatologist at Froedtert. He says, "The most common misconception of liver disease is that it's always alcohol related, and this is a perfect example of where that is not true."
Dr. Franco explains how important the liver is to daily life. "Essentially it controls most of the major functions of the body. You essentially cannot live without it."
Bree was put at the top of the organ donor list, and had a new liver within a week. It's all thanks to the generosity of the family of a 51-year-old man.
"Currently I'm trying to write a letter to my donor family," Bree says. She adds, "Every day I wonder different things about my donor: What was he like as a person, and stuff like that."
Bree is studying hard to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher, and wants to encourage others to consider organ donation.
"There are a lot of people who are like, nervous about putting that on their license," she says.
Thanks to her donor, Bree is now 'Wilson's disease free', but she will have to take many medications for awhile. However, her prognosis is good, and she should live a long, normal life. She's also running at full strength again! Her coach Shawn Thielitz is very proud.
"Bree's an amazing kid who's gone through a lot. She's an inspiration to the team," he says.
Bree adds, "It's tough, but when you have family and friends, just keeping faith and feelings-- that God's there for you and stuff like that."
There are effective medications for Wilson's disease, if it's caught early. Bree is excited to take part in the Transplant Olympics this summer in Madison.