-- A Massachusetts nursing student said she is excited about the possibility of helping people through life saving transplants after she herself had two liver transplants as a child.
Laurie Lukianov, 26, is currently in her first year at Brockton Hospital School of Nursing, where she is expected to graduate next year. Lukianov knows firsthand what it’s like to be a sick patient after having gone through two bouts of liver failure that necessitated life-saving transplants.
“There is no question in my mind,” she told the Boston Children’s Hospital's blog. “Since I was 3 years old, I wanted to be a nurse.”
By age 3, Lukianov had spent much of her life in the hospital because she was born with biliary atresia, a condition where the bile ducts in and outside the liver do not have normal openings. It can be life threatening and cured only by a liver transplant.
As a toddler, Lukianov made headlines when she became one of the first people in the U.S. to receive a liver transplant from a living donor. Her father was able to donate a portion of his liver to save her life.
While it saved her life, Lukianov was not “cured.” Her liver was not fully functioning and at age 13, she again needed a new liver.
In spite of spending time at the hospital, Lukianov said her time with the nurses helped lift her spirits when she was sick.
“I was in and out of the hospital for liver failure constantly, but the hospital became a home to me,” she said on the Boston Children’s Hospital blog. “I loved going there because I loved the nurses -- they painted my nails, brought me to the cafeteria for meals with them and just put in that extra time.”
At age 13, Lukianov was again saved by a liver transplant, although this one was from a deceased donor. The operation saved her life, but she remained extremely ill after the lengthy procedure.
She underwent 13 emergency surgeries in the two weeks following the transplant operation and spent another three months in the hospital, according to Boston Children’s Hospital.
Renovations at her new high school made the school a danger to her health during her freshman year.
“My immune system was so fragile my transplant surgeons didn’t want me to go there because of the risk of infection from the dust and debris,” she told the blog.
Lukianov was eventually able to mostly recover, though she will remain on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. She also cares for her son Jake as she attends nursing school. This summer for the first time she decided to brave the beach in a bikini for the first time even though her large abdominal scar would show.
“Of course people were staring and eventually someone asked, ‘What happened to your belly?’ I joked, ‘I got bitten by a shark,’” she told the blog.