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My Uncle?… He didn’t even drink…

My name is Nicole Lyonnais, I’m 40, married, & a full-time working Mom of a 7 and 5-year-old. I played sports growing up but never loved to run as that the coaches made us do to torture us, so I thought.

After college, I ran sporadically. After the birth of my son, I was heavy and depressed. A year later, in January of 2010, I needed to do something to feel better. I chose a goal to run a half marathon that April. I bought sneakers & started to run consistently. I ran the half, then a full that November.

I didn’t run much after that until 2014 when I started running to just run, to clear my head. No music, just me and the sounds of my footsteps. I ran 1000 miles in 2016, each mile outside-not one on a treadmill. Through the heat, the snow and the rain…I ran. I have become a better person through running, not perfect but better.

While all of this was going on, my Uncle Yves was suffering. This man who was my ‘crazy’ Uncle, not the craziest but he was crazy, strong and I just loved him.

He worked 22 years in a manufacturing plant in CT where he was exposed to chemicals that he was unaware of. The company was relocating in 1995. Instead of moving, he decided to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide, then a Licensed Practical Nurse specializing in Geriatrics. He loved working with the elderly, they probably laughed at his jokesJ.

In 2004, he was so sick. He was vomiting so terribly & was taken to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. My Uncle? He didn’t drink, maybe a cocktail at a wedding! The insurance company for the plant made him go to 8 doctors, all provided the same diagnosis of NASH cirrhosis (Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis disease). His liver would not regenerate and he would need to receive one from a cadaver.

He was living a relatively healthy life while waiting until he developed breathing problems, confusion, and stamina problems. In 2009, he had to stop working as a nurse, something he loved dearly. He waited, waited patiently for a liver.

In January of 2014, they found a cancerous tumor on his liver. This moved him up on the transplant list rather quickly. Yale New Haven recommended him to NYU in June of 2014. He was so sick, my strong funny Uncle was now so pale, weak and he couldn’t even sit for a family visit for more than 20 minutes. Seeing him like this just broke my heart every time I saw him.

Finally a new liver! He was sent home still weak, on 16 pills a day, twice a day & 9 additional pills, once a day for 6 months. He had 21 vials of blood work weekly and saw a doctor every 2 weeks.

Now 2 years after his transplant, he takes 3 pills a day, twice a day. He sees the doctor every 3 months. He has been admitted 3 times to the hospital with complications from complications BUT he is so much healthier than he had been in the 10 years previous to the transplant. Because of the transplant, he walked my little cousin down the aisle in October of 2015. She recently had a baby girl and my Uncle was there to hold her. As my Aunt Chris says, LIFE IS GOOD!

I am going to run the 2016 NYC marathon for the Chris Klug Foundation to help raise awareness about tissue and organ donation. I was wrong, running is not torture. It provides more life in so many ways. I am lucky to be able to run for my Uncle and my little cousin, that story is for another time.

Check out this great interview with Nicole and best-selling author Win Charles.

#LiveLifeGiveLife

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Anna Schwinger

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