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February 2024

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Photo by Steve Rivera: A nursing staff member walks with Berlinda Rivera of Amalia after her liver transplant in November 2021. The University of Denver Hospital has a bell that patients ring when they get to check out of the hospital: here Berlinda is on her way to ring that bell!

Holiday Miracle: Amalia Woman Receives Liver Transplant

Courtesy Photo:
Steve and Berlinda Rivera of Amalia

Berlinda Rivera of Amalia is the third member of her family who, due to hereditary conditions, has received a liver transplant. Her first cousin, Roger Torres from Amalia (currently residing in Denver) got his new liver about six years ago. Berlinda’s sister, Gloria Segura, also of Amalia, underwent the transplant close to a year ago. Both are doing well, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine.

Over the past summer, Berlinda started feeling weak and tired and became jaundiced. Because of her cousin’s and sister’s symptoms, both Berlinda and her husband, Steve, knew they needed to act fast. They arranged to see the liver specialists at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. This hospital is considered the best transplant facility with the best staff in the region.

It was established early on that Berlinda was a candidate for a liver transplant. She and Steve began traveling to Denver once a month for tests and bloodwork, while her liver continued to deteriorate. On November 16, the couple was returning home from a routine appointment at the Denver hospital. When they were just north of Pueblo, they got a call from the hospital. Berlinda’s blood work had just been tested and her red blood count was at a dangerous level. The couple was advised to turn around immediately and go directly to the hospital. After months of illness, Berlinda was by then very yellow and very sick. While she was already on the list to receive a liver, her name was now moved to the top of that list.
That afternoon, a miracle happened; the Lord works in mysterious ways. A young woman in California, an organ donor, died unexpectedly. The details of her passing were not disclosed. After getting preliminary information, one of the Denver doctors flew to California, performed tests on the liver, and rushed back with the refrigerated organ. What was particularly frightening about Berlinda’s condition was that she had a rare B blood type. The new liver from the deceased donor was a match! Berlinda went into surgery at midnight. The team of ten completed the transplant by 6:30 am.

Berlinda celebrated her 61st birthday on December 12, the day after checking out of the hospital. Unfortunately, she had to return to the hospital when her red blood count went down. After receiving a blood transfusion, she was stabilized, got better, and was able to leave the hospital. After over a month, Berlinda transitioned to the hotel where her husband Steve had been staying near the hospital. She was still under observation and went to the hospital twice a week to have tests done and see the doctor. Her doctors report that they are surprised at how well she is doing. Berlinda continues to improve and is getting stronger. By mid-December she was on a restricted diet, eating mostly soups, broth, fruit, and cereal; no heavy foods. Oddly, almost everything she ate tasted salty to her, even if it had no salt in it.

After her sister Gloria had her transplant, she transitioned from seeing the doctor with decreasing frequency—twice a week, then once a week, then once every two weeks, and then once a month. Gloria is now checking in with her doctor every six months and Berlinda expects that she will follow the same protocol.

Over the last few months since the surgery, Berlinda has lost her appetite (and about 20 lbs.), which is not out of the normal range of reactions to a liver transplant. The family is aware of the stigma that liver disease carries with it; most people believe that all liver disease is caused by excessive drinking, which is certainly not the case. Berlinda and her sister and cousin were not drinkers. Steve said that Berlinda might have a beer for a special occasion, but those occasions were few and far between.

Berlinda is in good spirits and is looking healthy. She is an active member of Living Word Ministries in Questa and sings and plays guitar and piano there, so she’s looking forward to resuming her music ministry. Berlinda and her family thank the community for all their prayers and support.