Manila family gives thanks

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Gail and Phil Earnest of Manila agree they have a lot to be thankful for as they make their plans for a family Thanksgiving dinner. They are planning a turkey dinner at home. They have three daughters, Magan, 23, Myra, 17, and Morgan, 13.

The Ernest family has celebrated a lot of Thanksgivings together but this one is especially special because Mrs. Earnest underwent a liver transplant in August.

"I am thankful to be here to celebrate Thanksgiving," Mrs. Earnest said. "I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband, daughters, church family, doctors, and others have supported me through the wait, surgery and the recovery."

Mrs. Earnest worked as a letter carrier in Blytheville for the U.S. Post Office for 11 years. In 2001 she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. She took treatments but it did not take care of the problem. The hepatitis led to liver damage and in February of this year she was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and her only option was a transplant.

Mrs. Earnest said it was a long process getting on the transplant list.

"I had to undergo numerous tests to make sure I did not have cancer in other places or any other problems to prevent the transplant," Mrs. Earnest said. "From February to June I was tested and placed on the transplant list."

The family stayed on ready for the call from the Methodist Transplant University in Memphis where the surgery would take place.

The first call came at the end of July. They nervously rushed to the hospital not knowing what to expect. The staff got Mrs. Earnest prepared for the surgery but it did not happen.

Mrs. Earnest said after a few tears of disappointment, she turned it into a positive experience.

"The next time we received the call, we knew exactly what to expect and I think we were all more prepared," Mrs. Earnest said.

The second call came on Aug. 4. They spent the day in the hospital waiting and hoping and this time, she did receive a liver. She was taken into surgery at 10:30 p.m. for the four hour surgery. By the early hours of Aug. 5 she was in recovery following a successful surgery.

"I don't remember a lot about it but Phil fills in the blanks," Mrs. Earnest said.

She spent two days in intensive care and was on her way home in eight days. It has not been an easy journey but the family is working through it together.

It is not the first crisis the Ernest family has faced together. Mr. Earnest underwent heart surgery with five bypasses in December of 1996.

Mr. Earnest said she took good care of him while he was recovering. Mrs. Earnest said he took good care of her during her recovery.

"Now, we are just taking care of each other," Mrs. Earnest said.

Mrs. Earnest said the doctors and staff at the transplant unit were great.

She has an aunt, Ruby Meers, who lives in Collierville who called and visited often during her stay in Memphis. She said one of her uncles, Chris Cagle, from Russellville called every day.

"He called every day while I was there," Mrs. Earnest said. "He died two weeks after I had my transplant. He was not well but it seemed he was more concerned about my recovery than his own problems. He told me every day he was praying for me."

Mr. and Mrs. Earnest said they learned a lot about transplants through their process.

"We met people from all over," Mrs. Earnest said. "Some were having lungs, heart, liver, pancreas, or other transplants. To see a toddler walking down the hall after a kidney transplant made me even more aware of the need for donors than when I thought of my own need for a liver."

Mrs. Earnest said she is thankful to live in a day with the medical knowledge to save lives through transplants, especially children.

"I have a lot to be thankful for, but most of all I am thankful that someone cared enough to be an organ donor," she said. "The only cure for liver cancer right now, like many other problems, is a transplant."

Mrs. Earnest's liver transplant was successful but she recently learned from her blood work her hepatitis has returned. She will start on medication and continue with her blood tests to keep it under control.

"My doctors keep a close watch on me," Mrs. Earnest said. "They call at least once a week. I am looking forward to the holidays."

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