LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KABC) -- Just a few months ago, Vanessa Zamores was living in Japan and teaching English when she suddenly became ill.
"I was having trouble just getting out of bed. I noticed that my legs had almost no strength and they started to swell and retain water, and I had zero appetite. So I thought I need to go to the doctor," recalled Zamores.
The 31-year-old was hospitalized. Doctors told her she was experiencing acute liver failure.
"They thought a transplant is probably in the future, but in Japan the transplant system isn't as expansive as ours is here. So, they said the best chances for survival would be to go back to America," she said.
But getting on a nine-hour-long flight was risky and not covered by her insurance. The medical team in Japan contacted Zamores' family who paid for the flight and for a doctor and nurse to accompany Zamores. Once they arrived she would be taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center.
"The two hospitals have been exchanging my information and my medical records. I think from the start it was already decided that I'd need a transplant," said Zamores.
At Los Angeles International Airport, a team from Loma Linda University Medical Center was waiting with an ambulance to take Zamores directly to the hospital.
"She was happy to be here and we were of course ecstatic she made it. That is a long flight... nine-hour flight," said Zamores father, William Zamores.
That was just one part of the journey. Zamores was extremely weak and because she was retaining fluids, she was at risk of a brain hemorrhage.
"She was getting great care, but you could tell her liver was not doing so well and she was starting to deteriorate," said her father.
Zamores was put at the top of the liver transplant list.
"It is extremely lethal and very time sensitive. You only have short amount of time to get those people transplanted and saved," said Dr. Charles Bratton, Director of Liver Transplantation at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Just seven days after being placed on a transplant list, Zamores got a liver. Bratton and his team performed the surgery on Nov. 26.
"She is on a path to putting liver disease in her background and having her life in front of her, which is an incredible change from where she was a month ago," said Bratton.
Zamores is now home with her family and for the first time in six years will spend Christmas with them.
"I am really excited to spend the holidays with my family and continue healing at home," said Zamores.
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