SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Every year, about six thousand liver transplants take place nationwide.
It's not a lot considering how many potential donors there could be. One San Bernardino woman came close to a life-saving organ donation twice, but it eluded her. She hopes her heart-wrenching story will inspire others to sign up to be organ donors.
Susan Christine Jackson, 56, of San Bernardino said when her liver failed, fatigue, jaundice and an inability to focus took over.
"My oldest son said it was like having your mom go on vacation for two years," Jackson said. And not being able to help her 14-year-old son with his homework was also painful for her.
Fatty liver disease put her on the transplant list.
"She and I both really despaired about whether or not she would get a transplant. She was just really suffering," said Dr. Michael Volk, the director of liver transplantation at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
When an organ becomes available, it goes to the first on the list - the person who is the most sick. But sometimes, that person may be too ill and can't tolerate a transplant at that point in time.
"So then it goes to the next person down," Volk said.
Jackson was "next person," twice. The first time, she checked into the hospital and thought she might receive half of a liver, but she ended up not getting it.
"They gave half of the liver to the child, and they gave the other half, which they were going to give the other half to me because they didn't think it would fit the other gentleman. But, it ended up fitting," Jackson said.
Afterwards, another call - another let down.
"And I prayed and I told God and I said I can't do this anymore," she said. "If its my time to go, take me."
Jackson was certain she would die waiting. Then, she received a third call.
"I didn't believe it until they put me on a gurney and they rolled me down to the surgery unit," she said. "God had a really big hand in this and I just want to tell people if you can find it in your heart, put that donor sticker on your license. And help somebody, even if it's not your loved one. It makes such a difference."
Months after her transplant, Jackson is back to being a central part of her family.
Third time is the charm for San Bernardino mother in need of liver transplant
CIRCLE OF HEALTH