‘Gift of Life’

ELKINS — A surprise celebration earlier this month marked a special anniversary for a local woman who received the gift of life.

Carol Mallow, of Crystal Springs, had been diagnosed with non-alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver and was told she needed a liver transplant from a live donor. She was weeks away from death at the time of her surgery on Sept. 8, 2016, when a transplant saved her life. The donor was Linda Langley Kelley, of Elkins, who heard through a mutual friend that Mallow needed an organ donation.

The mutual friend, Debbie Jones of Elkins, arranged a surprise party in Elkins City Park recently to celebrate Mallow’s successful recovery thanks to Kelley’s unselfish act. Jones made food for the picnic and invited family, friends and former classmates, managing to keep it a surprise somehow.

“I’m doing great, and it’s great to be alive,” Mallow said afterward, noting her most recent medical checkup at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center showed good results.

Mallow did have a rough time immediately after the surgery, when she had a severe allergic reaction to an anti-rejection medication and was extremely ill for about a month. She also has lost a lot of weight, saying she used to weigh more than 200 pounds and is down to less than 140.

“I’m a different person,” Mallow said. “Every time someone sees me, they say, ‘You look great.’ I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

She said Kelley donated a portion of her liver, and many people don’t know that the human liver can regenerate. After a donation, the organ regrows to almost its original size in both the donor and the recipient.

Mallow said she can’t express how appreciative she is that Kelley was able and willing to donate.

“She’s been a part of my life ever since,” Mallow said. “It took a brave person to come forward to help a stranger. … She’s part of me now.”

Kelley said in a previous interview with The Inter-Mountain that she was prompted to help Mallow in part because she’d lost an uncle to pancreatic cancer and knew the heartbreak associated with a terminal illness and its effect on family.

She traveled to Pittsburgh for testing and initial planning regarding a possible liver transplant, and learned that more than 15,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a liver transplant — and only about 5,000 deceased donor livers are available for transplant. Live donors often are the best — or only — option in order to save someone’s life.

“When I realized how simple the process is and that you really don’t lose your organ, you share it, I was ready,” Kelley said in a prior interview. “It really made me wonder why more people don’t become involved in the live donor concept.”

For Mallow, who also hopes more people will consider becoming a donor, she said she sheds tears of joy when she thinks how far she has come in the past year, thanks to Kelley, Jones and the support of her husband, family and friends.

“Sept. 8 marked one year that I was given the gift of life,” Mallow said. “Don’t ever take life for granted.”