Nefeterius Akeli McPherson was diagnosed with secondary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare bile duct and liver disease, during her first year of law school. Despite her condition, she graduated with honors and passed the Texas bar in 2008. On Nov. 6, 2011, Nefeterius received her life-saving liver transplant from 12-year-old Taitlyn Shae Hughes. "It was so gut-wrenching to discover that a child saved my life," she recalled. "Thanks to Taitlyn, I have been able to return to the legal field, enjoy traveling and spend time with family and friends. Organ donation sees no race, gender, age, financial status or social class, and that is a beautiful thing."
In 2005, during her first year of law school at Southern Methodist University, Nefeterius Akeli McPherson suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with secondary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare bile duct and liver disease that causes recurring bile duct infections, high fevers, severe abdominal pains and extreme fatigue. Nefeterius had surgeries and procedures at hospitals in Dallas and at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to treat her condition. Despite her medical setback, she succeeded in graduating with honors from SMU and passed the Texas bar in November 2008.
"During the time that I was in law school, it was hard to focus because I was so ill," said Nefeterius, now 39. "Ironically, school kept my mind off of the scary health issues I was facing. I'm glad I refused to quit."
In February 2009, Nefeterius moved to Washington, D.C., to work in the Obama administration as the press secretary for former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. However, after each international work trip, Nefeterius experienced severe fatigue, soon followed by fevers, chills, and pain. Aggressive bacteria also grew in her body and her blood.
Nefeterius was put on the liver transplant list on May 18, 2011. On Nov. 6 of that year, she received her life-saving liver transplant from a 12-year-old. "It was so gut-wrenching to discover that a child saved my life," Nefeterius said. "At age 11, Taitlyn Shae Hughes had told her parents she wanted to be an organ donor. Her goal was to change the world.
"It's such a blessing to have a second chance at life. I will always be grateful for the decision my 12-year-old donor, Taitlyn, made to give me the 'Gift of Life,'" said Nefeterius.
When Taitlyn's mother met Nefeterius in February 2012, she gave her Taitlyn's yellow West Virginia University (WVU) T-shirt. To honor her donor, Nefeterius, a fifth- generation Texan, wore Taitlyn's t-shirt to the University of Texas-WVU football game in Austin on October 6, 2012, and is now a fan of the Mountaineers.
"Thanks to Taitlyn, I have been able to return to the legal field, enjoy traveling and spend time with family and friends," Nefeterius said. "Organ donation sees no race, gender, age, financial status or social class, and that is a beautiful thing."