Share Your Story
We want to hear your story! We welcome stories from anyone in San Diego County. Whether you are a patient, a caregiver, a friend or a loved one of someone with a liver disease we believe your story is important. Your experience and advice can help others keep the faith and have hope as they go through this journey. Please use the fields below to submit your story.
Tom’s Story: Hepatic Encephalopathy Congenital Hepatic Fibrosis. Healthy living has been the centerpiece of Tom Krumenacker’s adult life—out of necessity. At age 10, doctors discovered he had congenital scarring of the liver, a birth defect that meant a lifetime of close medical observation. Krumenacker enjoyed an active childhood until his senior year of college. That’s when his friends watched him pass out after complaining of flu-like symptoms and unquenchable thirst. After reviving him, they took him to the hospital, where doctors determined he was bleeding internally as a result of his scarred liver. Surgeons used tiny rubber bands to tie off the problematic veins. A similar procedure would need to be repeated every six months for the next 11 years. What he needed was a new liver, but with a small supply of donors, finding a match wouldn’t be easy. Knowing he had a life-threatening condition, Krumenacker was determined to stay in shape. “I made it to 35 and was a generally healthy guy,” says the financial planner from San Diego. “I ran a little and spent a lot of time at the gym.” But by 2003 the internal bleeding was more frequent and toxins were getting into his brain, causing memory loss and confusion. Krumenacker’s wife called her sister, Heather Walsh, whom they’d recently found had the same blood type as Tom. “She asked me if I’d get tested to see if I’d be a liver match,” says Walsh, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia. “It didn’t take long to decide—all I had to do was look at my niece Samantha who was only a year old at the time.” “The night before our surgery [May 2004], Tom made me promise to run a marathon with him if we both lived,” Walsh continues. “I thought he was out of it. I mean, I hated exercise and didn’t even know how long a marathon was!” By that August, just three months after the transplant, Krumenacker was toeing the starting line of a half-marathon. (He and Walsh’s sister divorced later in 2004.) Walsh took much longer to heal, as the remaining 60 percent of her liver needed to regenerate. But when her birthday rolled around in March 2005, she opened Krumenacker’s card and was shocked to see he’d given her an entry in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that June. “I’d literally never run before,” says Walsh, “but I did that day.” “Something happened when I crossed the finish line,” she says. “I became a runner. It makes me feel so good about myself. I’m no longer afraid of anything because I’ve seen what I’m capable of.” She’s since completed 30 marathons—five with Tom—75 half-marathons, and 2 full triathlons with the third coming up in 2022. Krumenacker, who’s since remarried and now has two more children still runs and is more active than ever. “Running got me back to being me,” says Krumenacker. “I think I can speak for Heather when I say that running was the starting point that proved that we can do anything.”
Laura’s Story: Fatty Liver Disease Steatohepatitis In 2009 I went to the doctor’s office for a routine physical exam. As part of the physical, my doctor ordered labs. I went through the normal physical exam routine and scheduled my follow-up visit for my results. While waiting for my follow-up visit, I received a call from my doctor that my lab work had shown that one of my labs show abnormal results related to my liver function and scheduled me for an ultrasound and more tests. After all the results were in, I went to see my doctor, and during the visit, he explained to me that my ultrasound showed spots in my liver. That is when I received the diagnosis of a fatty liver disease medically known as Steatohepatitis. My provider explained to me that the spots were a result of my obesity. He also explained the different possible outcomes if I didn’t change to a healthier lifestyle. I think the biggest impact was when I heard that it could lead to liver cancer. After my diagnose, I did what the rest of the world would do. I googled it. That’s when I realized that I did not know much about the liver and its importance. Nor did I know how it contributes to my well-being. I also realized that the resources are limited, including available treatments for my diagnosis. The one common denominator mentioned on the web to prevent more damage was incorporating a healthier lifestyle and weight loss. Learning this was a turning point in my life; I made a commitment to myself and my family to eat healthier, exercise, lose weight, and practice more self-care. Within a month, I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, and went to nutrition classes offered by my healthcare provider. I am happy to share with you that at my 6-month follow-up visit to the doctor, I had lost about 40 pounds. Since then, I have lost a total of 65 pounds, and most importantly, my health has improved in every area. The awareness that came through my experience led me to participate in research studies to ensure that Latinos are represented specially because I know that our culture has a very intimate relationship with food. Our families revolve around food and use food as an expression of love, joy, and kindness. I know how hard it is to break that food habit, but I also know how much we lack knowledge in this area and how it directly affects our community. My experience and the knowledge that I gained from my liver disease make being an Ambassador on the Board of Directors of the Liver Coalition of San Diego a great honor.
Brian’s Story: Our friend and former board member of the Liver Coalition of San Diego Brian Christie passed away on January 17, 2021. He joined our leadership ranks on December 5, 2016. Brian was open about his life, his many professional accomplishments and his fight to beat Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a liver inflammation and damage caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. Brian was most recently the Executive Producer and Host of The Boomer Show on Wealth TV. He was an accomplished reporter, and Emmy-winning News Anchorman. Brian was a familiar face to television news viewers around the world. For over a decade, he was a primary anchor for CNN, Headline News and CNN International. News Experts have called him the “consummate newscaster.” He was at the helm of CNN’s major nightly programs, including: “The World Today,” “CNN Prime News” and “Newsnight.” An excellent journalist, Brian had interviewed many of the major national newsmakers, politicians and celebrities on network television. At CNN, Brian had been in the anchor hot-seat for the analysis and reporting of a myriad of live, breaking stories including Hurricane Andrew, The O.J. Simpson Trial, The Persian Gulf War. Brian also hosted “CNN’s Your Turn.” This popular late night call-in show was a fixture on the “CNN Overnight” schedule for many years. Media Mogul Ted Turner once said, “I’ve always liked Christie, not only is he a warm, friendly, competent newscaster, he has a habit of winning.” He won the ratings battle at CNN, Headline News, in Boston, and in San Diego (twice). His extensive career also included being a primary anchor on local newscasts in Boston, Nashville, and San Diego. Brian had also hosted a number of nationally syndicated news, information and talk shows. Brian was also an excellent musician. As a singer and songwriter, his guitar music has roots in traditional folk, blues, rock, country and gospel music. Ever the journalist, Brian began writing short stories at an early age. An excellent musician, he mixed journalism with songwriting. He became a recording artist for a number of prominent record labels including MGM, Roulette and the legendary Sun Records, who gave birth to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.
Susan’s Story: When I became too sick to work, I fell behind on house payments, electric bills, basically on all of my bills. I had no choice, I thought, other than to be creative. I began to listen to the radio and it was simple enough with my encephalopathic mind to think of funny stories or to embellish on true stories. I won a thousand dollars at a time for sharing a funny story. I only won a few times so it wasn’t enough to live off of, but it certainly helped!!!