VERSAILLES, Ky. — A Versailles woman is recuperating after undergoing five organ transplants.
Dozens of surgeries later, she and her family are celebrating life.
“It's not very easy but people will ask us how we get by knowing that Rachel stays in the hospital a lot and that the surgery is very risky and has lots of side effects and a long time recuperation,” Ellen Downey said.
Her daughter, Rachel, is recovering at Indiana University Health Hospital.
“Rachel has Crohn's disease and after so many surgeries over a period of years, she lost too much of her intestine, which caused her to not absorb nutrients, leading to many hospital stays and lots of IV nutrition and fluids at her home,” Ellen said.
The fight with the disease has been going for more than two decades.
“It's been so long it's kind of a normal for our family. You hate to say you're used to it but it happens so frequently that it's just another day sometimes,” Ellen said.
The mother of two qualified for organ transplants but it became difficult to navigate false alarms, said Ray, Ellen’s husband.
“We've been waiting for a long time and she's had so many procedures that I just lost count,” Ray said.
He gardens to avoid having to worry.
“Flowers might be happy in something to do so I can take a little bit of time off from granddaughters and daughter being so weak and so nervous,” Ray said.
The family experienced three false alarms because there were issues with the organs.
“And she gets the call on April 1, which is the first day of Organ Donor Month and also Easter weekend,” Ellen said.
Rachel received not one but five organ donations called a multi-visceral transplant.
“She got her small and large bowel, her stomach, her pancreas, and her liver, all at the same time, all from the same donor,” Ellen said.
Through their journey, the family has become organ donation advocates.
“People need to know that it could be a long process, the gift of life, (but) her having the new organs is amazing,” Ellen said.
The long process is now winding down with recovery and new hope.
“One of her things was I can't wait to have steak and a salad, but wonder if she's gonna even like that,” Ellen said.
The family also said children can also be organ donors for other kids on the waitlist for a transplant.
Nationwide, there are more than 100,000 currently on the national transplant waiting list and another person is added every nine minutes.