CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — On Mother’s Day, most moms are happy to receive flowers, cards, or maybe even breakfast in bed, but the gift a Fayetteville mother recently received from her daughter is life-changing.
Meredith Stiehl and her daughter Kenan share the same smile, but at times Meredith’s smile has been overshadowed by sickness and pain.
“I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver a little over eight years ago,” she explained. She added that the illness affected multiple organs, including her heart and lungs.
Her daughter Kenan was a freshman in college when her mom was diagnosed.
“It was very hard to watch her be so sick,” she recalled. “She had a really hard time breathing.”
“At my graduation last year, she was [using a] wheelchair, oxygen tank, and I could not really take seeing her like that, having that hard of a time anymore,” Kenan said.
“It became very difficult,” her mom added. “I was losing ground and time.”
Then, Meredith Stiehl’s doctors told her she could benefit from a partial liver transplant from a living donor. This type of transplant is possible because the liver can regrow inside the body.
If she wanted to move ahead with the transplant, it would be the first of its kind in 20 years at UNC Hospital, but she’d need to find a donor who was not only a match but willing to go through major surgery.
Kenan got tested immediately and learned she was a match, but when she told her mother she wanted to donate part of her liver, Meredith wasn’t sure.
“No, no, you’re not going to do this,” she recalled saying. She said she had concerns for her own health, but added, “They were certainly secondary to my daughter and her health.”
The more they learned about the procedure, though, the more they realized it was Meredith’s best chance at recovery. In March, surgeons at UNC transplanted part of Kenan’s liver into her mom.
Two months after the transplant, mother and daughter are both healthy.
“It’s the greatest thing I’ve seen, her turnaround, health-wise. It’s like it is a miracle,” Kenan said.
Now she encourages others to consider becoming a living donor.
“I wish more people could know that they can change someone’s quality of life this dramatically by being a living organ donor,” she said. “I was so worried, but it worked out perfectly. And she’s okay and I’m okay, and I’m very happy I could do it.”
“It was such a selfless thing to do,” her mom added. “I love her; I’m proud of her, but I still can’t believe that she did this.”
“I did it for all the future moments for us to have together, like my wedding, having kids,” Kenan explained. “I feel honored to be able to do this.”