- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Almost 27 years after Dodie Lorraine received the liver transplant that saved her life, she was able to personally thank the family it came from.

Dodie, a Golden Meadow resident and daughter of Lafourche Parish Councilman Daniel Lorraine, recently traveled to New Orleans to meet the parents of Elliott, the 9-year-old boy whose liver was donated to her when she was 11 years old.

At 6 months old, Dodie was diagnosed with neonatal giant cell hepatitis and spent much of her childhood visiting doctors who told the family she needed a liver transplant to survive.

During that time, the family received prayers and financial support from the entire community, Daniel said.

“We got a lot of help from the whole parish, plus,” he said. “There were times when I would go out publicly, they’d come put money in my pocket. Just come put money in my pocket.”

In January 1989, the family was at a Biddy Basketball game when the beeper went off notifying them an organ was available.

A few hours later, they were in New Orleans preparing for the nine-hour transplant surgery at Ochsner Health System’s transplant center.

Dodie was the 33rd person to receive a liver transplant at the hospital.

“We didn’t know what would happen,” Daniel said. “It was in God’s hands.”

In the year following the surgery, Dodie was in the hospital 21 different times as she faced rejections, bacterial infections and other complications.

Although she lived with a strict medication schedule and frequent hospital visits, she was able to dance, play basketball and cheer at Golden Meadow Junior High in the years after her transplant.

But Dodie never stopped thinking of the family who donated the liver.

With the help of the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, Dodie learned the liver came from Elliott, a boy who had been hit by a car after school while crossing the street in a group and whose organs were donated to multiple people in need.

One March, she started writing letters to his parents, Hank and Barbara, who didn’t want their last name used, and continued writing each year at the same time.

“I just kind of told them I was doing great and I thanked them for the decision that they made to donate Elliott’s organs,” she said.

Dodie didn’t hear back right away, but she persisted and received a response letter from the family about seven or eight years ago.

The letter included a picture of Elliott, which is now tucked into Dodie’s scrapbook above the words “hero” and “angel.”

She heard from the family again about a month ago when they emailed Dodie to say they would be in New Orleans and offered to meet.

Over dinner on Bourbon Street, Dodie, her parents and sister, Kelly, learned more about the couple, who lives in Mobile, Alabama, and their other two sons.

“We just talked about all kind of different things. It was just hard to ask questions. It was tough,” Daniel said. “You’ve got to remember, we turned out to be happy but you had a life that was lost. A life was lost to let her continue living.”

Dodie showed them the tattoo on her shoulder of an angel with the name “Elliott” underneath.

“When his mom and dad saw that it was tough,” Daniel said.

Dodie’s mother, “Tookie,” said she was struck by how open and accepting Elliott’s parents were of the family.

Since meeting, Dodie said she now speaks with Elliott’s parents through texts and email a few times each week.

Next summer, they plan to visit Grand Isle where Dodie will share with them one of her favorite pastimes, fishing.

In the meantime, Dodie, Oschner’s longest-living liver transplant recipient, plans to continue sharing her story and encouraging others to become organ donors.

Already she has spoken to groups at South Lafourche High School and Nicholls State University about the more than 120,000 people awaiting an organ transplant and the life-saving effect of registering to donate organs and tissues.

For information about registering as a donor, visit donatelifela.org.

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Information from: The Courier, https://www.houmatoday.com


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