- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

LAUREL, Neb. (AP) - As spring approaches, new life can be seen everywhere.

There is budding of the trees; baby lambs and calves scampering around on new blades of grass. There are daffodils pushing up through the soil.

Each year at this time, three women - all members of the Laurel United Methodist Church - celebrate the new lives they received through liver transplants.

It was February 2006 when Maggie Huetig entered the Nebraska Medical Center for her transplant. June Erwin received her new liver in February 2007, and Diann Lake just celebrated the anniversary of her surgery, also at the medical center, in March 2013.

Each of the women had a different team of doctors, a different liver disorder and a different recovery period.

However, they followed the same procedures required of all transplant candidates. When all requirements are met, the patient is usually sent home to wait until a match is made.

In Lake’s case, she had been waiting for more than a year. She had been hospitalized with severe encephalopathy when a liver became available.

“The bile from my liver was seeping into my brain,” Lake told the Norfolk Daily News (http://bit.ly/1lT1Zjp ). “I was in outer space.”

Because she had been so ill before the surgery, she required physical therapy after the surgery has been performed. As a result, it was four months after the transplant when she returned home.

Huetig entered the hospital for removal of fluid and testing and was sent home to wait. About six weeks later, she was contacted about an available liver.

Her transplant was a success, but she had one incident with rejection while she was still in the hospital. After about a month, she returned home.

Erwin was planning to attend her son’s basketball game when she was notified. She had to make an immediate decision whether to accept a partial liver that was to be shared with a young girl. She accepted, and she and her husband headed for Omaha.

She spent 69 days in Omaha, came home and was then hospitalized again for three weeks before returning home.

“I am thankful to the donor and their family for giving me a second chance at life,” Huetig said.

The other women agreed. They celebrate new life every day, not just on the anniversaries of their transplants.