Local woman waits for life-saving liver transplant

Have you ever prayed for a phone call? Diana Whealon does, every single day. In October 2015, Diana learned she has bile duct liver cancer, a rare type of cancer.

I wrote an article about Diana last year, and many of you asked for an update. Diana appreciates your concern and prayers. She said, “If only one person becomes a donor as a result of hearing my story, it will be well worth it.”

Going through treatments, hospital stays, setbacks and lack of appetite resulted in Diana losing 70 pounds. She recently shopped for size 4 clothes. Doctors hope she can regain some weight to ready her for the customary 20-pound loss that occurs after a transplant.

Diana explained: “I didn’t try to lose the weight, but since I have, I no longer need pills for diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol or rheumatoid arthritis. So, the weight loss brought with it some positive effects. Cancer feeds on refined sugar, and I stay away from it. My sense of taste is gone, so I eat to live, not for enjoyment. I try to eat healthy foods rich in calories.”

She remains on the transplant waiting list, her only option for survival. Her MELD Score (Model for End Stage liver disease) is 31. A friend of Diana’s received a transplant when her score reached 33. Many things factor into the score, and Diana has reached a number that puts her chances for a transplant at an optimistic level.

Once a call is received, Diana needs to get to Froedtert Hospital within four hours. Diana received a call in January. She was not considered the primary recipient, but there was a chance she could still receive the liver. She was told the donor was a prisoner. Donors are placed in three categories: brain-dead, cardiac events, prisoners. Prisoners are placed in a class by themselves due to the lifestyle some of them lived. Diana agreed to gratefully accept a liver from any of the three categories.

Diana explained: “We were at the hospital for 31 hours. During that time, they took 23 vials of blood for various tests. I had a chest X-ray and received IV fluids. I could not eat or drink anything during the 31 hours. I was prepped and hopeful, but the liver went to another recipient.”

She received a second call several months ago advising her a liver might be available and she should be close to Froedtert just in case. That liver went to someone else, too. Diana explained it is not unusual for those waiting for organ donations to receive several calls prior to actually receiving the organ. One of the many friends Diana made during treatments at Froedtert received six calls before finally receiving a transplant. Diana said “the record number of calls is 13.”

I asked Diana how hubby Ed (former city chief of police) is doing. She acknowledged it is probably more difficult emotionally on him than on her.

“Ed is used to tackling a problem and getting results,” she said. “It is frustrating to him that he can’t fix this and he can’t speed up the process. It is such a waiting game and sometimes it really gets him down.”

She continued: “Today he is in Oconto working on our boat. It is good for him to get away for a while. I need some alone time, too, but I am very grateful for his love and support.”

Diana is a very strong-willed person who does not spend time asking “Why me?” She is playing the cards she was dealt with incredible determination and a great deal of faith.

Diana said: “I told my doctors I have a lot of life still to live. I have longevity on my side. Both of my parents recently celebrated their 86th birthdays. They live in their own home. Mom cooks, cleans and is a Red Hatter. She is a retired nurse and she still gives a great back rub. Dad occasionally gets out on the golf course. My 97-year-old uncle still rides his bike.”

Diana added: “I have a lot of things remaining on my bucket list. I don’t think He is ready for me yet, but it’s all in His hands.”

Diana and Ed are strong advocates for Donate Life America, an organization that provides information about how to become an organ donor. Diana said Shawano County has fewer registered donors than many Wisconsin’s counties. Menominee is the lowest at 38 percent.

Diana is hoping by sharing her story, others might visit www.wisconsindonor.org or call 608-265-0356 (University of Wisconsin Procurement Organization) for more information. Please consider the gift of life.

Answer to last week’s question: Shawano’s first alderwoman was Mary Alice Coan, elected in 1970.

Question: 148 S. Main St. was once home to Thimke’s Jewelers. What was the site prior to the jewelry store?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.