Organ transplants often mean the difference between life and death for those who need them. One North Bay family knows how dire things can get. They shared their story, hoping others will step in to save a life.
Miya French was born with a liver defect. "When she was born she had what is called Bilaria Tresea. She was an eggplant purple color," Merle French said.
Doctors told her parents that the duct that carries bile from the liver to her gallbladder was blocked. Despite attempts to fix it surgically, the condition only got worse. "They told us she would need a liver transplant soon," French said.
Her sister Mewa French remembers hearing the news. "She was put us on a wait list and there is plenty of people on the wait list and they said that it would take time and she wouldn't be at the top until she was really sick and by then it could have been too late," she said.
"Miwa had just turned, was getting ready to turn 18 and that's when she said she'd do it," Merle said.
Tests showed Mewa was a perfect match for her younger sister. "She wanted to be her savoir in a way, if you want to call it that," Merle said.
Five years ago, Miya got that liver transplant. Her parents worried about having two kids in the hospital. "You try to except it for what it is and then you just be thankful that they come out of it the way they did," Merle said.
Miya is now an active 9 year old and her prospects for living a healthy life are good. "My tummy used to be in pain sometimes, but not anymore," Miya said.
She was lucky to find a match in her family because many people don't. "18 people die every day waiting for a transplant," California Transplant Donor Network Kathy Clark said. The network coordinates organ and tissue recovery and distribution, and educates healthcare professionals and the public about the importance of organ and tissue donation. Donors can leave their organs when they die. "They can help someone live their lives to the fullest. They can go out and swim, they can go out and run, they can go out and live a normal life," she said.
Miya is doing so well she's heading to Houston this weekend with her family to compete in the U.S. Transplant Games, a sports competition for transplant survivors. Miya will be the youngest member of the Northern Calfornia team.
"I think it's cool. She says she's like a regular kid now because she gets to compete with everyone else," Mewa said.
Miya thanks her big sister often for sharing part of her liver. She knows she wouldn't be able to swim these laps without her. "She's my hero, I love her," she said.
"I think it's great that she looks up to me like that, but I wouldn't say I'm her hero, I mean, I would have done it for any of my siblings. She's family. You can't say no to family," Mewa said.
To find out how you can be an organ donor, click here.
Family shares story hoping others will become organ donors to help save lives