Joy in the Journey Part 2: Life Changes

By: Wills Porter

Philmont Scout Ranch (Day 4 of 14)
Cimarron, NM.

Life Changes

While I was being prepared for surgery in pre-op my family notified our family friends back in Athens and out of state. To say that this was a major development would be an understatement. I was finally in pre-op and would soon undergo my much-awaited liver transplant. When the final preparations were complete, I was rolled in the operating room. Once there, I was hooked up to monitors and an IV line was started. The surgery started as expected. However, this medical procedure was not going to be an average day at the office for my doctors.

Surgery | Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Where my Life Changed
(Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

What started as a regular transplant procedure quickly turned for the worst. In one instant I was alive and the next, I was lost on the table due to a cardiac arrest. For a few minutes, my life hung in the balance. I was not responding and thigs were not looking good. As every second passed, my brain lost more and more oxygen. The worst-case scenario had happened, I was lost on the table. Then, I was resuscitated. The procedure was called off and I left the OR still in an unknown condition. I was not showing many signs of being impacted by my medical trauma. However, my parents got a feeling that something was not right. After asking I be evaluated by neurology, I was evaluated and there was no real sign of imidate concern. However, when I was being handed back to my parents the unthinkable again happened. I had a seizure. When this happened, it became clear to everyone that I had suffered substantial neurological damage. I may never walk, talk, see or make facial expressions ever again… and I still needed a transplant! My life had changed in a way no one expected. I was not even three years old.


After suffering my cardiac arrest and seizure., I left the hospital with a long road of recovery ahead. The hope was that I would eventually be considered healthy enough for a transplant, but no real timeline was made. It was more important that I make a recovery and it not be rushed. Recovery was slow but after months of intense rehabilitation, I was finally meeting my key milestones in recovery. While I made great strides, my vision was still not doing well. . The damage I sustained in the hospital was so great that my ability to see was greatly compromised. I would probably never see well for the rest of my life.. I would need to learn to read braille and walk with a cane. My life had changed, and it was time to accommodate as best as I could. The time had come to be evaluated by a specialist in Atlanta.

A New Dawn on the Rise

When I went to be evaluated, I went in not being able to see. I had sustained major neurological damage and it was evident internally and externally in that I had vision challenges. After I was evaluated, the individual doing the evaluation began to cry. Why was this person crying? Maybe they were new, and the pressure of the results were hard to come to terms with. Maybe it was a worse prognosis than expected. The conversation probably went something like this…


Mr. and Mrs. Porter, I don’t know how to explain this, but your son can see.

My parents



I have never seen this before. I probably never will be able to explain this. Your son can see.

With my ability to see restored, the prognosis for getting a transplant all of a sudden got a lot better. As these advances were happening, the hope was that my days on the transplant waitlist were numbered. For everything that was not known, what was known was that the 1990s were coming to an end and a new dawn was rising. On the night of December 31,1999 my family got the call we had all been waiting for. My time had come. In excitement, our family made the one-hour drive to CHOA. When we arrived, we learned that the procedure would not take place until later in the evening. This meant that we had tome to spend before the surgery. That night, my family and I attended the hospital New Year’s celebration. At that celebration, the theme was “Out with the old and in with the new”. Would this come to define my transplant journey? My family and doctors would find out very soon.


Published by Wills Porter

Having been a transplant recipient of over 20 years, Wills is a living example of the life-transforming power of organ donation and transplant. While life after transplant has not always been easy, Wills believes that the challenges he has faced since his transplant have made him stronger and helped him take joy in his own transplant journey. As a KT author, podcast host and the director of research and development for Kidney Trails, Wills is focused on advancing the conversation around organ donation through innovative and extra organary ways.

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