Gabi Super, Recipient
With Liver Transplant, Life Returns to Normal
Posted June 13, 2013
Gabi Super felt like her life was on hold. While waiting for a life-saving liver transplant since July 2012, the 16-year-old from St. Louis County was homeschooled through the Vista Program at Kirkwood High School, missed countless activities because of fatigue and stopped playing soccer. “I feel like my life is on pause, I just want to keep going with my life,” she said in June 2013, just a few weeks before receiving the Gift of Life. “It’s a problem, but it can be fixed. Being able to have a normal life again … I would love that.”
The issues began in fifth grade. At 10-years-old, she complained of stomach pain. “She said something to her father about not feeling well, but we just assumed growing pains,” said Gabi’s mother, Missy. “They always do a weight/growth chart thing in fifth grade. She lost 10 pounds, and she was wearing clothes from second grade.”
The weight loss prompted her parents to take her to a doctor. Gabi’s pediatrician recommended specialists who order medication for a condition similar to acid reflux after many tests and blood draws. Physicians at Mercy Hospital determined she had had idiopathic sclerosing cholangitis (ISC) and ulcerative colitis. ISC is a rare liver condition, affecting one in 10,000 adults and just one in 100,000 children, that damages the bile ducts inside and outside of the liver. Ulcerative colitis, which is inflammation in the intestine, generally causes pain and discomfort but is manageable. After she was diagnosed, she began seeing specialists at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“We knew in fifth grade that she was going to need a transplant,” Missy said. “But we didn’t really tell her a whole lot about it because we didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon.”
As a freshman at Kirkwood High School, Gabi learned she would need a liver transplant. “It was a little unexpected,” she said, “but I didn’t know everything that would go into it and that it would take so long. It was before I knew a lot about transplantation.” Complications with the ulcerative colitis and the fatigue created by both conditions required her to attend school through the Vista program.
The Vista program is designed for students who have a long-term suspension, must hold a full-time job, or have a medical or family problem keeping them from attending school regularly. Gabi attends some classes in-person. However, many are offered online. “It was hard at first because it was a big change, but I learn better by myself,” Gabi said. “I’m not much of a social person, so it’s been good in a way.” Still, she looks forward to returning to the classroom with her friends this fall. A driven and motivated student, Gabi has excelled in the Vista program and was invited to join the National Honor Society during the 2012-2013 school year.
The Supers tried to live life as normal as possible while Gabi waited for a transplant. “Like she said, we’re on pause,” Missy said a couple weeks before Gabi was transplanted. “We plan things now. For a while we weren’t; then we decided, we’re planning things, and if we can’t go, then we can’t go. She’s been able to do a ton because of that.”
The family went to Disney World last summer, shortly after Gabi was added to the transplant list. She attended a few concerts by her favorite band, Owl City, including a show in Chicago. Gabi spent time learning to play piano and her guitar. But she missed horseback riding and participating in some activities with her friends. “Anything that was too much activity, was a little much,” Gabi said. “I was always just really tired, so it was hard to do a lot of things I want to do.”
Gabi’s parents found ways to share the need for organ and tissue donation. Dr. David Super, an OB/GYN in the Mercy system, encourages all of his patients to join the organ and tissue donor registry at his practice in Sunset Hills. Missy is working with the Kirkwood High School club lacrosse team to plan fundraising activities and Donate Life events.