Hartsville resident Barbara VanRensselaer has been facing a health crisis for more 10 years.

Diagnosed with diabetes, a fatty liver, and most recently, stage four (non-alcoholic) cirrhosis of the liver, her doctors have told her that it is time for a liver transplant in order to save her life.

“I don’t drink, so when they told me that I had cirrhosis, I was dumb-founded,” said VanRensselaer. “In 2010, I was diagnosed with a fatty liver and diabetes. Back then, they didn’t make anything of it. Then, in 2014, I had been real sick and went to the doctor, and they ran tests and diagnosed me with stage four (non-alcoholic) cirrhosis of the liver. They are seeing more and more people with fatty livers turning into cirrhosis.

“Apparently, with diabetes, when your sugar is elevated, it’s like drinking alcohol. That’s what they told me.”

However, diabetes and cirrhosis are not the only health problems that VanRensselaer faces. Due to her diagnoses, she has had several very serious complications that sometimes go hand-in-hand with her health issues.

“From there, I went through a lot of complications,” said VanRensselaer. “I have what they call esophageal varices that bleed in the esophagus, like polyps. I have to have scopes done frequently, and when they find them, they band them so I don’t bleed out. With the cirrhosis, my platelets are really low. I’m a bleeder. My white count is so low that I’m at risk for catching infections, between having diabetes and a fatty liver.

“I also have portal hypertension, and I’ve ended up with clots in my portal vein. I’m at risk for blood clots. As well, I have severe fatigue and sleep problems. Sometimes, I have confusion. I get encephalitis (inflammation) of the brain where the toxins build up, and it causes some confusion.”

Having been registered nurse, VanRensselaer understands just how critical her diagnosis is.

“With my confusion, the doctor said I shouldn’t work anymore,” said VanRensselaer. “Being a registered nurse, I was scared that I was going to give somebody the wrong medicine or something like that.”

Since leaving her nursing job, VanRensselaer’s doctors have told her that she is going to need a liver transplant in order to save her life.

“I just went through the transplant evaluation,” said VanRensselaer. “They started it in September because I’ve been in the hospital four times since February. I kept getting sepsis with bacteria in my blood. They don’t know why. They just think that my immune system is so low that I keep getting infections.

“I went to see the surgeon for the transplant evaluation, and he said they are beginning to look away from the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) scores because (of) people like me. My MELD score isn’t too bad, but with all my side effects and all the problems I’m having, it is looking like end-stage cirrhosis as to where I need a new liver.”

VanRensselaer is being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Although Vanderbilt does partial liver transplants, VanRensselaer was told that she was not a good candidate for a partial transplant, but instead, needed a total liver transplant because of all of her risk factors due to bleeding and blood clots.

“They, now, do living donors at Vanderbilt, but the surgeon said I’m not a candidate because I have too many risk factors due to bleeding and the clots,” said VanRensselaer. “My grandson was going to donate a portion of his liver to me, but the surgeon said, because of all my risk factors, I have to have a whole liver and not just a partial.”

But for VanRensselaer, finding a donor is only part of the battle.

“To be on the transplant list, you have to prove that you’ve got the money to pay for medications and other stuff, or else they won’t do it,” said VanRensselaer. “I have insurance, but it is the co-payments that are quite high. Being on a fixed income, I don’t have much money to spare. I do have a little bit put away, but it’s not going to be enough to pay for everything.”

Knowing time is of the essence, VanRensselaer and her husband Richard have started a GoFundMe page in order to raise enough money for VanRensselaer to qualify for the surgery.

“I’ve been putting it on Facebook,” said VanRensselaer. “I opened up an account at my bank. That account is specifically for money that comes in through the GoFundMe.

“My husband goes down to Twice Daily in Hartsville for coffee once in a while. One of the girls said he looks like her grandpa. The girls down there asked him how I was doing. He told them that I was on the liver transplant list, and they all came down and gave money. They are just so wonderful.”

VanRensselaer went on to express gratitude for her neighbors who have been there to lend a helping hand throughout her lengthy health crisis.

For anyone interested in reaching out to VanRensselaer with assistance, a link can be found on her Facebook page, which is directly connected to her GoFundMe page.

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