By Alyce Collins
THIS GIRL was in denial about her liver failure diagnosis until it caused VITILIGO to spread to her face, and it took five doctors to convince her that she needed a liver TRANSPLANT to save her life.
Julie Williams (22) from New York, USA, was shocked to notice she had started to develop patches of vitiligo on her body and a constant itch on the bottom of her feet, before blood tests revealed a progressive liver disease which would require a life-saving transplant.
In 2014, Julie was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) which appeared to develop out of the blue and was only diagnosed after Julie began noticing symptoms and she went for blood tests and liver biopsies to find out the source of the problem.
As the vitiligo spread across her entire body, including her face, as well as getting jaundice skin, Julie’s life was fading away as her weight dropped from 8st 2lbs to just 6st 2lbs and she was constantly tired.
After struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis and seeing her health decline, Julie had a liver transplant in June 2018 and is finally trying to recover the physical strength she lost.
Julie shares regular updates throughout her recovery to her Instagram page in the hopes of enlightening more people about the importance of transplants as well as being a comfort to other transplant patients, struggling with their own diagnosis.
“Out of nowhere, about four years ago, I started getting vitiligo and very bad itching on the bottom of my feet,” said Julie.
“It felt like poison ivy that no matter how much you itched it or if you put anything on it, nothing would relieve it.
“So, I had blood tests and biopsies done, and that’s when I was diagnosed with PSC. The most terrifying news I’ve heard in my life was that I would need a transplant and I was in total denial.
“The vitiligo didn’t bother me much until it started to spread to my face, and that lowered my confidence and self-esteem.
“The itchy feet made it impossible for me to sleep. Not long after that my eyes and skin became jaundice and I was feeling constantly tired.
“I had this feeling of sickness almost all of the time, so I could barely manage to eat anything.
“The final symptom was my spleen becoming very enlarged, so I saw four different doctors to get all of their opinions because I was in such a state of denial.
“The outcomes were all the same but the fifth doctor I saw was the one who I felt most comfortable with. She gave me a much more positive outlook on what was to come.
“On June 6th I got the call saying they had a liver for me, so the next day I would be getting my transplant.
“I was in theatre for over six hours and by the end they couldn’t stitch me up on the inside because there was so much swelling. They just stitched my skin up on the outside, so nothing was exposed.
“The next day I went back into surgery, so they could stitch me up properly on the inside and I spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit.”
Once she was moved out of intensive care, Julie spent over a week in a trauma ward, and it wasn’t until 12 days later, on June 19th that Julie was able to stand up and walk again.
A liver transplant is only seen as the necessary treatment if an individual has a progressive form of PSC with a life-long diagnosis. Julie was on the transplant list for three months before receiving her liver transplant.
Julie, who lives on her aunt and uncle’s farm, struggled with not being able to tend to the farm animals and not being able to show the cattle in the agricultural shows. Being ill meant that Julie was no longer able to do most of what she most enjoyed.
“I wanted to run from it because I was so terrified. But my motto is to have faith over fear,” said Julie.
“After the transplant, the pain was so intense, and I could hardly walk. It hurt to even move, but after a few days I could already feel a difference in my overall health.
“Since then, everything has been going well in my recovery. I’m no longer jaundice, and I can now pretty much eat anything within reason.
“Before going into surgery, I only weighed just over 6st but now I’m a much happier 7st 3lbs and I’m slowly gaining my muscle back.
“In September I took part in a 3.1-mile ‘Liver Life’ walk with my aunt. My whole outlook on life has changed now.
“There are still some things I can’t do, and I will miss out on, but I feel like this has all opened up so many more possibilities for me now.
“Sometimes thinking back on it makes me very emotional, but I’ve had such a strong, positive and loving support system throughout all of this.
“I’ve since been able to attend the agricultural fairs with my family and friends. I had to wear a mask, but I still got to hang around which was fun.
“To anyone going through a tough time, I just want to show that things will get better. Keep a positive outlook and do fun things to occupy your mind.
“I chose to put my story out there on Instagram to inspire people, and I hope that by sharing my story I will inspire more people to change their outlook on what they’re going through.”
You can find out more about Julie’s transplant recovery on her Instagram @countrygirl735.