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A new appreciation for life

SHEFFIELD— Twenty-year-old Lauren Hasbrook is wanting to get her life back to normal, but the definition of normal has changed a bit for her.

Hasbrook, a standout athlete and graduate of Bureau Valley High School, recently underwent a liver transplant and is now recuperating at home, putting off college for a few more months.

As Hasbrook and her mother, Jackie, sat at their kitchen table, they talked about the events of the past few months.

After completing her second year at Illinois State University, Hasbrook came home for the summer, but as the summer progressed, she just didn’t feel well. At the time she didn’t know it, but her stomach was filling up with fluid. In July, she went to her local doctor and was sent to a specialist in Peoria, but no clear diagnosis was given.

At home on Aug. 18, she began vomiting and went straight to the emergency room at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Two days later, she was Lifeflighted to Northwestern Hospital, where she was diagnosed with Wilson’s disease, a very rare hereditary disease which affects the liver.

As she has since learned, most people have earlier symptoms of the disease, get their diagnosis earlier, and are able to treat the disease with medication. A very small number of people, like Lauren, don’t have the earlier symptoms, and the disease is already acute when diagnosed, Lauren said.

Once at Northwestern, Jackie and her husband, Terry, were told right away their daughter would need a liver transplant. Because of the severity of the disease, Lauren was put on Status 1 level, the highest, most urgent need for a new liver. Until a donor was found, their daughter would be put immediately on liver dialysis and also on kidney dialysis, Jackie said.

Fortunately within days, a matching liver was found for Lauren, and she was wheeled into surgery about midnight on Aug. 28. The surgery took nine hours to complete, but the next day she had to go back into surgery for additional artery connection work, a surgery which lasted about five hours.

Lauren remained at Northwestern for about 10 days after her surgeries, with her folks staying at a nearby Ronald McDonald house. After she was discharged, Lauren and her parents stayed in a local hotel because Lauren needed to see the doctor daily. On Sept. 14, Lauren finally came home to Bureau County.

“It was great to be back home,” Lauren said.

But Lauren still has ongoing medical needs. She and her parents still make regular trips to Northwestern for check-ups. On Sept. 28, Lauren underwent a third surgery for an incision repair. She goes twice a week to Perry Memorial Hospital for blood work. And Lauren has a basket filled with bottle after bottle after bottle of prescription medicines which she takes daily, some of which she will take for the rest of her life.

But Lauren isn’t complaining. She feeling stronger every day. Her illness and liver transplant have taught her to appreciate each and every day because she knows first-hand how quickly things can change in a moment, in a diagnosis. She wants to make the most of each day she’s given, she said.

For Lauren, making the most of each day will mean heading back to school next fall, this time to OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria to become a registered nurse, which had been her plan before she got sick. Her family and friends have told her that all she has gone through in recent months should no doubt make her a better nurse.

“I hope so,” Lauren said. “For now, I just want to get back to a normal life, being a normal 20 year old. The doctors want me to live a normal life as soon as possible, and that’s what I want too.”

As mother and daughter remember these past few months, they agreed the support and kindness of family and friends, along with a lot of faith in God and a lot of prayers, have brought them through many tough and long days.

“We want to say such a big thank-you for all the family, friends and even strangers who have been so supportive and kind,” Jackie said. “Their strength and prayers have meant so much to us.”

Her daughter agreed.

“We are so very lucky to be from Bureau County, where people care about each other, and they come out to help you,” Lauren said. “Mom says she wouldn’t change coming from Bureau County for the world, and I wouldn’t either.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

Benefit for Lauren Hasbrook

What: “We Love You Lauren” live auction, dinner, cash raffle and dance.

When: Nov. 10 — Dinner will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by an auction and dance from 8 to 11 p.m.

Where: Rediger Auction Service, West Main Street, Wyanet.

Cost: Tickets are $20 per person and includes dinner and a chance to win $500. Children ages 5 and under are free. Carry-outs available.

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