Non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) impacts one-quarter of the population in the United States. The cause of this debilitating disease is unknown, but it is known that it is caused by too much fat being stored in the liver cells, which causes liver failure.
Sheila “Elsie” Rael is a lifelong resident of Questa. She’s shared that her health problems started well over 20 years ago. “I was sick for so long and didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Rael says in a phone interview with the Questa del Rio News. At the time of the interview, she was on her way to Holy Cross Hospital emergency room in Taos to get checked for her high blood pressure and weakness. Though in obvious distress, Elsie spoke to us as she wanted to get the word out about the disease to as many people as possible.
It is a matter of life and death for her to find a liver donor.
Having made various trips to doctors across the western United States searching for answers for her health issues, she finally got a diagnosis at UCHealth in Aurora, Colorado. There, she was diagnosed with what is now end-stage non-alcoholic cirrhosis.
“The best treatment for me at this point is to get a liver donation from a living donor,” Elsie says. Her family has been on a mission to find a match for her, making social media videos and posts, searching relentlessly. “My son-in-law was going to be my donor when he passed away, but his liver wasn’t healthy so we couldn’t complete the transplant. I just need a healthy donor who is willing and able to donate a portion of their liver,” she says.
Elsie has three kids, ranging in age from 35 to 43. She has 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “My grandkids are the highlight of my life. I want to live, I want to see my grandkids grow up and have full and happy lives. A donation would be so incredibly appreciated for me because it would mean I could keep living,” she says.
Her reach throughout the Questa community has been great, from having worked for 15 years at the Ancianos, to the Wildcat’s Den, the La Q Pizza, all the way to owning and driving around a fan-favorite ice cream truck in local neighborhoods during the summers. “I worked with so many kiddos who are now grown adults, I really feel like I made an impact in their lives, and it was such a wonderful time for me,” she says.
More about living donations
The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself after a donation. The donated portion of the liver fully regrows within four months and will ultimately regain full function. Currently, more than 10,000 adults and children are waiting for a new liver in the United States. On average, it could take months or years for a donor to receive a liver. To see if you are eligible to donate to Elsie, you must be between 18-55 and match her A+ blood type. To apply, visit www.uchealthlivingdonor.org. Fill out your information, then click on “Named Recipient” and input “Sheila Elsie Rael.’