Regina was a young mom, expecting her fourth child, when her skin began to turn yellow and itchy. Her doctors thought her issues were related to her pregnancy. Sadly, she lost her daughter at 32 weeks gestation.
It was a difficult time, but the doctors expected her to heal physically. However, her symptoms did not improve and a biopsy revealed primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the liver. With three small children to care for, Regina needed an expert in liver disease.
Enter Dr. Alexandru Musat, a transplant hepatologist at UW Hospital and Clinics. Dr. Musat was able to stabilize Regina’s condition for five years, during which time Regina had two more children, a daughter and a son. When her condition began to deteriorate, she was listed for a liver transplant. Six months later she received a new liver.
Regina recalls that time with gratitude.
“I am so thankful to Dr. Musat, my transplant coordinator and the entire hospital staff for their expert and compassionate care. I felt taken care of both medically and emotionally.”
Her gratitude extends to her family, her faith and her church community, all who helped her through this journey.
Over the next couple of years, Regina adjusted to her new life – the numerous medications she has to take, certain lifestyle modifications she had to make and of course, continuing to care for her busy family. In 2008, Regina decided to place two of her sons in karate class. After watching the first week, she decided to give it a try herself.
“I instantly fell in love with the art and movement of karate,” she said. “The concept of this physical art was so good for both my mind and body.”
Through dedication and both physical and mental work, Regina began to pursue her black belt in karate, and then later in jujitsu. She started working out with a personal trainer to help improve her fitness level and agility, and in the process she lost 50 pounds. She is now a karate and self-defense instructor.
Regina says she feels better now than she did as a teenager. She is in great physical health and is deeply grateful to be here to watch her children grow. Given her love for the sport, it’s no surprise to learn that her entire family now takes karate lessons. Regina’s husband, Richard, is also a black belt, and her kids, Abigail (17), Robert (15), Thomas (14), Grace (11) and Joseph (8), are all involved at varying levels.
Regina’s gift of life has had a positive impact on many people. Most dramatically, it affected her husband, children and extended family members, but also the people she continues to touch through teaching self-defense. She never let her illness defeat her and she took her new gift of life and improved her health. She is living her life to the fullest while teaching others how to protect their lives as well. She hopes that by sharing her story, she can encourage others to become organ donors.
“I want other people to know that organ donors provide the gift of life for thousands of people who are waiting for their second chance at life,” she said. “That is a gift I was fortunate to receive, so I feel honored to give back.”
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