Before her diagnosis, Tara Farris, a busy wife and mother of three, ran 15 miles a week. She loved spending her free time with family, reading books and vacationing.
In January 2015, she began to experience itching in her hands and feet, so Farris saw her dermatologist. Her blood work was a red flag.
Her liver numbers were excessively elevated. A biopsy revealed she had stage three liver disease, or primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a terminal illness causing the liver to become inflamed and scarred. Farris was told she would need a liver transplant in five to ten years.
By October 2016, the disease progressed to stage four: cirrhosis of the liver, causing scar tissue and preventing her liver from working properly.
Her condition continued to deteriorate. On January 5, 2021 Farris was added to the waiting list to receive a liver.
“At first you feel on edge. You always have your phone on,” Farris said. “After a while you’re trying to go back to normal.”
Throughout her time waiting, Farris received four different phone calls telling her to be prepared for a potential donor liver. Each time, it didn’t work out. The fifth call was different.
September 24, 2021, was the day Farris received her life-saving liver transplant.
“I was already at UAMS for a flu shot when I got the call,” Farris said. “The initial news was very exciting, but I was very nervous.”
By 7 p.m. that night, Farris was taken into surgery to receive her new liver. Following her surgery, her health improved.
“I immediately started feeling like I had more energy,” she said. “I feel like I could take on the world.”
This past September, Farris celebrated the first anniversary of her transplant.
“It puts a whole new aspect on living your life to the fullest and being grateful for everything. Nothing is guaranteed,” she said. “It made me very thankful every day for organ donation and my organ donor.”
Farris was told the donor was a young man from Northwest Arkansas.
“I think everyone should register to be a donor because you never know who is going to need a transplant. I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought I would need a liver transplant,” Farris said.
Since her transplant, she’s been able to return to her favorite pastimes, including spending time with her family, and she’s taken up running again.
ARORA, Arkansas’ largest organ and tissue recovery agency, is celebrating National Donate Life Month across the state in April, honoring those who have restored lives through the generous gift of donation and also encouraging individuals to consider registering to become organ, tissue and eye donors.
“Registering to become a donor is simple, and it’s the gift of a lifetime,” said Mark Tudor, president and CEO of ARORA. “It gives hope to the more than 100,000 Americans, including more than 300 Arkansans, who are waiting on life-saving transplants.”
Arkansans can register to become an organ and tissue donor when renewing their driver’s license at their local DMV office or visit https://www.arora.org/donatelife/ to register online. Residents can also log onto the ARORA website at www.arora.org/kiosk to locate a donor registration kiosk where they can register in a matter of seconds with the swipe of their driver’s license or state ID card.
Story written by ARORA partners and published in Life In Chenal Magazine on March 28, 2023.