Local Transplant Recipient Grateful for Gift of Life and Motherhood
Diana Awad Joins Gift of Life Institute’s Transplant Pregnancy Registry International for 25thAnniversary Celebration
Havertown, PA resident, Diana Awad, had always been an active when she was young. She took dance lessons and gymnastics. She was a singer and loved to play the flute. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, she never faced any health challenges, and kept up with other young people her age. Then, she went to college and her life changed. During the fall semester of her senior year in college, her whole world was turned upside down.
In 1994 at just 20 years old, Diana tried to donate blood at a university blood drive. She was unable to donate, and received a letter informing her that her liver enzymes were high. She thought nothing of it and was sure that there was a mistake. Months later, she noticed that her skin and eyes were changing color, and taking on a yellowish hue. She felt weak and could barely stay awake during her classes. She was exhausted and knew that something wasn’t right.
Diana went to the student health center for help and was diagnosed with Hepatitis A. After the treatment that she received didn’t work, she went back to the health center and was told to immediately go to the hospital. She soon found out that her condition was life-threatening. She was admitted to the hospital and was added to the organ transplant waitlist for a liver. Within several days, she received a new liver from a matching donor. Her transplant was a success, and from the moment she opened her eyes post-transplant, she felt better.
Diana had no health issues for almost a decade after receiving her liver transplant, and her life was full. She had graduated from college. She was working as a teacher, got married and became pregnant with her first child. Diana said, “My pregnancy went well until I was at six months. My skin became so itchy I couldn’t stand it. I called the hospital’s liver program right away and they did a biopsy of my transplanted liver. I had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that made my immune system attack itself, and it was causing my body to reject my liver.”
Doctors told Diana that she may need to be induced because her pregnancy was affecting her transplanted liver. One week later, at 30 weeks pregnant, Diana’s water broke and she gave birth to Nadia. Nadia was only 3.5 pounds. Doctors tried to fight Diana’s rejection, but were unsuccessful. She was listed for a second liver transplant, and her wait began. She waited for seven stressful months, which put stress on her body and caused her kidneys to also fail, resulting in her needing not only a liver, but also a kidney transplant.
In 2003, Diana received a third chance at life because of the generosity of someone who said “yes” to donation. She was grateful to have her health back, and for her donor’s life-saving gifts. “My kidney transplant was not a perfect match, but the function was good enough that I felt much better. I feel lucky that I was sick for such short periods of time. I was healthy for years between my first and second transplants. I worked as a teacher and had my daughter. And then in 2008, my husband and I had twins, Evelyn and Jonathan, through a surrogate. After the complications of my first pregnancy, we wanted to be safe.” said Diana.
After being blessed with over a decade of health after her second liver and kidney transplant, she was faced with another challenge. Her health began to deteriorate again, and the kidney transplant that had lasted for 12 years began to fail. “Last year, I had a Urinary Tract Infection that wouldn’t go away. My doctor put me on antibiotics, but nothing helped. My feet were swollen and I was freezing all the time. I still took care of my family and worked, but my kidney was failing. Doctors told me I would need to have a second kidney transplant. My husband said that he wanted to be a donor – and we participated in a kidney exchange. In 2015, I received a second kidney transplant and it was a great match. It’s been a very good year for me.” she said.
“Today, Nadia is 13.5 and the twins will soon be 8. I feel healthy and love to share my story. I’m open with people about how fortunate I’ve been. Without my transplants, I would not be here. My children wouldn’t exist.” Diana said. “I think most people would be donors if they knew that they could save a life. I’m so grateful – there is so much more to say than thank you to my donors. I hope that their families feel peace in knowing that their loved ones’ organs live on in me.” she said.
Because Diana is an organ transplant recipient and became pregnant post-transplant, she was connected with Gift of Life Institute’s Transplant Pregnancy Registry International (TPR), an organization that studies the outcomes of pregnancies in female organ transplant recipients and those fathered by male transplant recipients. The TPR is an ongoing study that was created in 1991 by the late Vincent T. Armenti, MD, PhD, and the information collected has helped countless transplant recipients make family planning decisions.
The TPR has helped thousands of people, like Diana, and is the only pregnancy registry of its kind in the world. Over the past 25 years, TPR has tracked the pregnancies and births of more than 2,500 individuals, and has worked with 250 transplant centers throughout North America.In October 2016, TPR opened its participation to any transplant recipient in the world, due to the number of international requests for information and participation.
To celebrate its 25 years of success, the TPR hosted an educational symposium and celebratory dinner in Philadelphia on October 21st. Diana, along with other local organ transplant recipients, transplant surgeons and medical professionals joined TPR for this exciting event. Diana participated in a panel discuss about pregnancy after transplantation, and was happy to share her story.
To join the Transplant Pregnancy Registry International, visit their website here.