24-HOUR SAVE: Social media rallies for woman's liver transplant - KMSP-TV

24-HOUR SAVE: Social media rallies for woman's liver transplant

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Imagine being told that your daughter has 24 hours to live if she does not get a life-saving liver transplant. That's the exact scenario a Hutchinson family faced before an online rally saved the day.

Heather Eckstrom told Fox 9 News that it's been 6 years since she has felt as good as she does now.

"All the people were like, 'Are you Greek?' No, I'm really just jaundiced. I'm actually close to being not-alive right now," she said with a laugh.

When you're out of the woods, it's easier to joke -- but Eckstrom was literally 24 hours from death once.

"There are not words to describe what a blessing it's been," she said.

Fox 9 News first met Eckstrom in March, when the 23-year-old was blogging about her liver failure and using social media to try and find a donor.


FOX 9 ARCHIVE: Acetaminophen, alcohol a dangerous mix


"It's been a rough few months knowing that time could be running out," she said at the time.

On April 11, her health took a turn for the worse.

"I don't remember a ton of it because I crashed pretty fast," she reflected.

On April 17, doctors estimated she had about a day to live. Shortly thereafter, word came that a life-saving liver had been found.

"They gave her a 50-50 chance of coming off the table," Karen Eckstrom, Heather's mother, relayed.

On Easter Sunday, Karen Eckstrom woke her daughter with the news.

"She leaned over and looked in my eyes. She said, 'Heather. Heather, honey, you got that liver. You got the liver and you are going to get better now,'" Heather Eckstrom recalled. "I remember thinking how and when and how long has it been?"

The Eckstrom family used social media to spread the word and find a donor, and after the surgery was complete, it was the tool Heather Eckstrom used to thank her friends and family.

"I love you guys very much and I know that it's hard to be able to talk to me but we're going to have so many more times ahead," she said.

It's been a long 6 years since a then-17-year-old Heather Eckstrom went drinking, got drunk, came home and took acetaminophen. She says the combination killed her liver, forcing her first transplant. Now that she has survived her second, she is on a mission to spread the word about the dangers of excessive drinking.

"You are not invincible and not everybody gets 2nd and 3rd chances like I have had," she said. "I'm so blessed to have these chances. If only I had been smarter -- if I had been educated."

Part of the education she also hopes to share also involves continuing to encourage people to consider organ donation.

"That family, I don't know if they realize they've given me a new life," she said. "I'm 23 years old, and I get to set my sights higher than that because of that gift, and that's something that's being a hero without having to do any work."

Eckstrom will be saying at the Ronald McDonald House for at least another week while she continues to receive treatment to prevent organ failure, but she is looking forward to returning to her home in Hutchinson and continue her outreach efforts.

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