From friends to family as living donation of liver saves young mom's life

She's a young woman, a mother, and a liver transplant surgery success story. Now she is getting the chance to thank the young woman who donated to her.

"I think the hardest thing for me was having to write my daughters a letter in case I didn't wake up," said Adrienne Mihuc. 

It was July 26th and Adrienne Mihuc was at the Cleveland Clinic. She was about to undergo major surgeries that would take many hours and teams of specialists.

She needed a heart valve repair and a liver transplant. At only 30 years old, a genetic condition was causing Adrienne's liver to fail and without a donor - she would die.

So Nikita Richie was giving part of her liver to Adrienne.

"We can make it happen - we got this," Nikita said.

That was Nikita back in July before the transplant. She's home and recovering now after a successful surgery.

"The first thing she asked when she woke up, was she asked how I was doing,"  Adrienne said.

And it turns out, Adrienne is doing great.

"I'm like, you saved my life," she said. "She gave me time with my children that I very well may not have had."

And those children play a big role in making this happen. Adrienne's daughter Liz, and Nikita's daughter Roxy, are the best of friends. 

Roxy asked her mom to get tested to see if she could be a living donor for Adrienne and remarkably Nikita was a near-perfect match.

"It was so selfless of her, so selfless," Adrienne said. "And like I said, she thought nothing of it. She's just like, I'm going to give you a piece of my liver.' And I'm over here like, how do you re-pay that gift?"

The one way is to pay it forward, is by educating and advocating for people to become living donors.

"We have two kidneys - you can live with one," Adrienne said. "You can donate a piece of your liver - it will grow back. A lot of people don't know that it will grow back. Donate blood, help out, just do anything you can to help out."

Because the impact you can make is literally the difference between life and death.

Adrienne still has a recovery ahead of her. She had a complication after surgery that compromised the blood flow to her legs - she lost much of the muscle and other tissues and nerves in her calves - she still can't feel her feet.

She was stuck in bed unable to walk for 26 days after she woke up from her transplant - taking comfort in the family photo by her bedside.

"Every time I needed to do something, I looked at that picture," she said. "Because that was my motivation and my drive to get home - it was my daughters."

Daughters who were so happy once they finally saw their mom again - after she had been away from them for 42 days.

"We were all crying- my grandma was crying - my mom was crying," said daughter Elizabeth Wood. "We were all just a mess."

"When I was reunited with them that was the happiest day of my life," Adrienne said.

A day she feared might not come when she went in for surgery in July - scared but hopeful -  her nails were painted green that day - the color for Liver Transplant Awareness.

Now she and Nikita both wear matching emerald rings, gifts from Adrienne's mom - so grateful for a life saved because of the generosity of Nikita - a living donor and forever a part of their family.

"It's like we're a big family now, her family's my family," Elizabeth said. "They call me their granddaughter, their niece."

"And the same for us," Adrienne said.

"A really big thank you from us," Elizabeth said.

>>To learn more about The Gift of Life Michigan and it's Living Donor option, click here.
 

Recipient Adrienne Mihuc, left, and living donor Nikita Ritchie.