(201) Health 2021 Edition - Page 40

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P��t����ed PI�NEER

�ha�l�n �ress� earl� li�er donation reci�ient� thri�es three decades later WRITTEN BY DA��D M . ��MMER

Every checkup brought fear .

Parents Bob and Cheryl Press had few options besides trust . Their 3-yearold daughter Shaylyn was sick , and there was little clue asto the cause .“ Every door was � �we don ’ t know ,’” Bob Press says . “ It was just somany dead ends and no answers . The only thing that was conclusive was that her liver was deteriorating .”
At 3months old , Shaylyn ’ s formula intake and weight gain were normal . Even her fair skin failed to belie the liver failure that threatened her young life . Adistended and firm stomach nonetheless alerted doctors to an underlying issue . Bob Press says hewas referred to adoctor atNew York ’ s Columbia Presbyterian “ and the rollercoaster started from there .”
“ �er liver was deteriorating at arapid rate , and her cholesterol level was extremely high ,” he says . “ We were told by the time she ’ dbecrawling , she ’ d be dead ofamassive heart attack .” Shaylyn was and is amiracle , he says . Now 34 , she lives in aWyckoff group home run by Bergen County ’ s �nited Way . She works at anearby Marshall ’ s . �ecently , she became alicensed Zumba instructor and started to prepare for her duties as amaid ofhonor in her sister �ayla ’ s wedding in late �0�1 . “ I am alittle cautious about my health , but other than that , my life is fantastic ,” she says .
She is nonetheless the recipient of one of the first liver transplants in the nation .
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The rollercoaster , Bob Press says , lasted three years . It became clear early on that his daughter ’ s liver was failing . Cancer was suspected , but ruled out . “ Our world was flipped upside down . We didn ’ t even know what to think ,” Bob Press recalls .“ We had to trust in a process and try to understand and comprehend it , and it was pretty incomprehensible .”
In 1��0 , the science was nascent . The Press family traveled to the �niversity of Pittsburgh Medical Center to meet Thomas Starzl , the doctor who in1��3 performed the first human liver transplant . Sitting in tiny chairs , the ones you ’ d find in a preschool classroom , the parents heard the alarming news : Their daughter would die if she did not get anew liver .
Doctors put Shaylyn on the high-priori- ty list . They told the family to stay in the continental � . S . They gave them pagers and told them to await the transplant notification . Still , there were complications . Press , ahairstylist featured onthis magazine ’ s pages in the past , says his healthcare coverage was blocked by his private insurance . Government Medicaid didn ’ toffer any respite , he adds .
�e took ontwo full-time jobs and another part-time one . The Mahwah community also pitched in . Aneighbor went tothe local police department for asolicitation license to embark on a fundraising campaign that would bankroll the bond needed toget Shaylyn on the donor list . The police responded by creating anonprofit foundation tohelp with fundraisers that included aconcert headlined by metal band Overkill .
“ The people inthe town were very creative ,” he says .“ On paper , Iwas making a lot of money , but it was spent before Igot it . We needed tosave Shaylyn ’ s life , and we needed to secure funds to do that , since my health insurance wouldn ’ t .”
To cover her medical bills , Shaylyn had to bear awkward photo ops with donors . �er parents dealt with TVnews vans posted onthe curb in front oftheir home . One donor drove from Maine to drop �100 off at police headquarters .
Then , the buzz came . There was a liver from ayoung girl who died in acar accident near Buffalo , N . Y . Bob and Cheryl Press had ahalf-hour to say yes or no .
2021 EDITION ( 201 ) HEALTH