Town Crier News Staff
Mitchell Zolman of Leachville is quick to say this will be his best Thanksgiving ever. He turned 33 on Nov. 5 and it was the best birthday he ever celebrated. He and his family drove to the Hardy area to see the leaves turning and both agreed the foliage never looked more beautiful.
Mitchell and his wife, Christie, and three year old daughter, Hannah, have had a rough year but the couple agrees their faith is stronger for it.
Mitchell was diagnosed several years ago with a fatty liver. They were told it was not very unusual and he starting taking medication for it.
Earlier this year in May he started have major problems and throwing up blood. A week in the hospital after tests were run, doctors thought it was a varicose-like vein in his esophagus. Doctors banded the vein and thought he would be fine.
The procedure did not work and in a short time Mitchell was back at the emergency room. He was told after every test his liver looked healthy but he had to have more bands within two weeks.
He got very ill, started throwing up blood again and Christie called 911. They were quick to commend Emerson Ambulance, Leachville Chief of Police Keith Evans, and Leachville responders.
"They were wonderful," Christie said. "They got us to Jonesboro where Mitchell was kept in a medical coma for several days until he could be flown to Memphis. The doctor told us they could not save him. He said he would try, but there was not much hope. Six or eight of us just hit the floor and started praying."
Mitchell said one of the few things he remembers hearing during those days was a nurse coming into the room and saying there was a revival going on in the waiting room.
Mitchell was stabilized and flown by helicopter to Memphis July 5.
"They still thought his liver was healthy and the problem was the veins," Christie recalls. "They were going to do a surgery they compared to by-pass surgery for the heart, then doctors said they could not do it. That is when they started talking liver transplant. They told us Mitchell was one in a million but the medicine for the fatty liver had shut off the vein. We were put on a list and our friends and family started praying."
The Zolmans were told Mitchell might live six months without a transplant. They were upgraded on the list and he did undergo a liver transplant Aug. 17. He was home on Aug. 23.
In addition to Mitchell's health problems, it seemed every time a storm came through the roof was taken off their house. During his stay in the hospital, Christie's brother and parents worked to get it all repaired before he came home.
"First of all I want to thank God," Mitchell said. "Then I have to thank everyone who helped us get through a rough time. We had support from our family, our church family, our community, my work at Baker Truck and Implement Company, Staci Masters and Marilyn Branch, people who gave blood, every church for their prayers, the doctors and nurses, and especially my wife. She made me get up and walk when I didn't want to when the doctors said I needed to. She has been there beside me all of the way. Also, JoAnn Short from Leachville was there for us. I grew up with her grandchildren. Her husband had a transplant also, and he did not make it to come home. Mrs. Short, and so many others, have been there for us."
Mitchell's surgery went well and he did not have to have blood transfusions, and he was off the ventilator when he left recovery.
Mitchell is looking forward to going back to work. His doctors said he will be able to return to work soon.
"We never know what tomorrow will hold for us, but it amazed me of the support we received," Mitchell said. "It humbles you to have to rely on others. Another thing I learned through all of this is to not worry about the little things that don't matter."
Mitchell also said he wanted to thank the family of the donor.
"I don't know who they are, but their gift is what is allowing me to be here when my daughter turns four, be there for her first day of school and watch her grow up," he said. "It is sad they lost someone they love, but they gave me the ultimate gift -- the gift of life."
Mitchell had the opportunity to give back as Christie and Hannah both had their tonsils out the same day a couple of weeks ago. He got to take care of them for a few days.
He is looking forward to Thanksgiving with family.
"This will be a great Thanksgiving," he said. "Before I got sick, I always thought I didn't have time for this or that and now I realize what really matters. At the end of the day, it is where your heart is."