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So, what do I do with my new life?

Growing up I was always active in multiple sports and a very competitive athlete. I attended college and earned degrees in both Exercise Science and Psychology so that I could encourage and educate others about the importance of being healthy and fit both physically and mentally. In 2007, my life forever changed when I became ill and landed in the hospital on my death bed. It took nearly a week to diagnose what was wrong with me after becoming ill with what I thought was the flu and turned into jaundice and acute liver failure. After several days of tests, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic metabolic liver disease called Wilson’s Disease which is not curable, but manageable with medication. This sudden disease created obstacles on my path of staying active and healthy and forced me to take a step back from being as competitive as I once was as an athlete. Instead of despair, I turned my focus to earning my degrees in sports and coaching athletes.

I spent 7.5 years fighting this disease to stay healthy and live my life to the fullest including a healthy pregnancy and birth of my daughter in 2014. After the birth of my daughter, I began to spiral downwards in health and entered into end-stage liver disease, thus creating the importance to place me on the National Transplant Registry to await a liver transplant. My youngest sister of 8 years chose to undergo testing to become my match so that I would hopefully not wait too long on the list and get a second chance at life. In February 2015, I received the best news of my life, my sister was a perfect match and that we could prepare to schedule our transplant surgery. So on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, I received a second chance at life and received the most precious gift; a new liver. A day doesn’t go by without me saying thanks that I have a new chance to live. I received a gift that is more valuable than any materialistic item I could receive and one that I can’t ever repay my sister for.

 

So, what do I do with my new life? Well, I live my life to the fullest, remain active and push myself to create new limits. I started my fitness and healthy lifestyle journey 3 weeks post-transplant when I walked in my first 5K race ever, alongside my family and friends at the Donor Dash in Denver, Colorado in supporting other recipients like myself, donors that became heroes, and for those still waiting to receive their gift of new life through organ and tissue transplantation. I also remain active chasing around my beautiful and very active daughter and being a full-time mommy. Since that first 5K, I have returned to coaching tumbling and trampoline which is my passion and sport that I grew up competing in at a Junior Olympic level as well as inspiring and motivating other transplant recipients like myself to become active and fit in their lives as a Fit For Life! I am an Ambassador with the World Transplant Games Federation and helping to raise awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation around the world.

My goal to stay fit is not only to challenge myself physically but also making sure I have a mental strength and nourish my body through ideal portions. Being in the gym as a coach 6 days a week and working with athletes ages 2 and up, I want to be the best role model I can be for all those I coach as well as in my own home to my family. It’s so important to educate and encourage yourself to push past what you think your limits are, as well as encouraging others to do the same. Transplant recipients are individuals who are given a second chance to live, so let’s not waste that gift, but instead live our lives to the fullest. In order to do that, we must be active and stay as healthy as we can. Our heroes said “yes” to organ and tissue donation, so that we can live, so let’s honor those gifts and wear our scars with pride and get FIT by staying active and eating healthy.

 

#LiveLifeGiveLife

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Anna Schwinger

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