LIVER FAILURE: Acetaminophen, alcohol a dangerous mix - KMSP-TV

LIVER FAILURE: Acetaminophen, alcohol a dangerous mix

Posted: Updated:
HUTCHINSON, Minn. (KMSP) -

For most 23-year-olds, life is just getting started, but the life of a young woman in Hutchinson, Minn., could be over in a couple of weeks unless she gets a second life-saving organ transplant in time.

When Heather Eckstrom was a teenager, she needed a liver transplant. For years, she took medicine every 12 hours to stay alive -- but last year, she got word from her doctors that the liver was failing. In January, doctors gave her 3 months to live.

"It's been a rough few months knowing that time could be running out, but I'm trying to keep positive and keep hope," Eckstrom admitted.

For now, writing about her life gives Eckstrom peace.

"Hospital stays are always so exhausting," Eckstrom said. "It isn't a place I go to get well. It's a place I go to get treated."

Over the past several weeks, Eckstrom has been in and out of the hospital, and time is running out. Yet, while Eckstrom admits it isn't easy to go through daily life while wondering whether she'll survive another month, this isn't the first transplant process she's been through.

At 17, Eckstrom went drinking with friends for only the second time in her life. In her own words, she drank a lot and then came home and took acetaminophen -- and that combination killed her liver.

"By Tuesday, I was in a coma," she said. "By Friday, I had a liver transplant and woke up on Friday."

Nearly 6 years later, Eckstrom is still paying the price for that mistake.

"I just wanted to go to school. I just wanted to go to college, and I just wanted to be a normal 18-year-old -- and I haven't been normal since I had that transplant," she said.

Now, friends and family members are doing all they can to find a new donor, raising awareness on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #HelpHeather and encouraging people to get tested. So far, her CaringBridge site has had more than 60,000 visits.

"Seriously, 100 percent restored my faith in humanity because there are people I don't' even know offering me a vital organ to keep me alive," Eckstrom said.

Yet, there has been no match so far -- but Eckstrom says she is at peace with whatever happens even while she continues to hope that a new liver will come in time.

"I would ask people -- not even for me -- just do what you can to save someone's life, whether that means donating money, being a friend smiling at them, or -- you know -- giving them part of your liver," she said with a smile. "Take care of each other, and if you would like to start with me, that would be great."

Chronic acetaminophen use and chronic alcohol abuse have been separately linked to kidney and liver disease. Eckstrom admits that at 17, she certainly wasn't mature enough to know the risks, and that's why she continues to speak with youth groups about the dangers.

Additional resources:

- Helping Heather via gofundme
- Helping Heather on Facebook

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • VIDEO: St. Paul cops use Taser on father in front of children

    VIDEO: St. Paul cops use Taser on father in front of children

    Friday, August 29 2014 12:20 AM EDT2014-08-29 04:20:32 GMT
    Recently-released cell phone footage of an arrest made by St. Paul police at the end of January is triggering outrage against two white officers who used a Taser on a black man in front of his children at their school.
    Recently-released cell phone footage of an arrest made by St. Paul police at the end of January is triggering outrage against two white officers who used a Taser on a black man in front of his children at their school.
  • 28 new foods at Minnesota State Fair in 2014

    28 new foods at Minnesota State Fair in 2014

    Wednesday, June 25 2014 2:57 PM EDT2014-06-25 18:57:53 GMT
    The Minnesota State Fair is adding 28 new foods to the already massive, artery-clogging list of 500 foods from 300 different vendors. New food include everything from a bacon-wrapped turkey leg and beer gelato to a shrimp dog and chocolate salami.
    The Minnesota State Fair is adding 28 new foods to the already massive, artery-clogging list of 500 foods from 300 different vendors. New food include everything from a bacon-wrapped turkey leg and beer gelato to a shrimp dog and chocolate salami.
  • When hope was gone, parents turned to Google to save baby

    When hope was gone, parents turned to Google to save baby

    Thursday, August 28 2014 11:11 AM EDT2014-08-28 15:11:34 GMT

    They were told by multiple doctors that there was no way to save their baby. That's when they took matters into their own hands, and it ended up being the right choice.

    They were told by multiple doctors that there was no way to save their baby. That's when they took matters into their own hands, and it ended up being the right choice.

Powered by WorldNow

KMSP-TV
11358 Viking Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Phone: (952) 944-9999
Fax: (952) 942-0455

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices