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Jody Miles is back. And so is that sense of humor and smile God gave her.
Miles, 57, grins every time she reads Jeremiah 29:11 and she is grinning more each day as she recovers from a liver transplant.
That verse of Scripture has been a big comfort for the co-founder of Christian Services in the last two years.
Miles has all but forgotten the numerous setbacks from esophageal surgery and a cat bite in July that punted her from the top of the liver transplant list at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Miles needed a liver transplant after contracting hepatitis C in the 1980s from a blood transfusion that permanently damaged the vital organ.
That is in the past. Miles lives in the present. Her future, she said, is taken care of.
The proof is measured by how the copy machine at Christian Services blurred the NIV Bible page etched with the weeping prophet’s words on Wednesday afternoon.
Somehow, as if by divine intervention, the piece of paper became hung in the copier at verse 11, stretching it to a rather immense proportion, when compared to the rest of the page.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
God is definitely true to his promises, Miles said, which doesn’t surprise her one bit.
“It’s always more than you could ask, think or imagine,” she said. “God comes up with the coolest things. He always shows up. ”
“God is so good to me,” Miles said. “I feel like I owe him. You know, I think I might get that verse tattooed on my rear.”
Miles said making it back to good health sometimes makes her feel like the one passenger who survives a devastating plane crash. Even her doctors are surprised at how well she has done. After a liver transplant Nov. 30, she was back home by mid-December.
“I am so grateful and aware that everyone doesn’t have the outcome that I’ve had,” Miles said.
Since the transplant, Miles said her mind has cleared up, which is a 180-degree turnaround from the constant “brain fog” she started suffering in late summer. That constant daze was attributed to the toxins from liver failure.
“Mentally, I was so foggy that I couldn’t drive without running off the road,” she said. “It’s a funny feeling to be that dependent on people.”
Miles has lost about 70 pounds since surgery from a strict high protein, no salt, no sugar diet.
Miles, with her trademark sense of humor, said she knows a portion of meat should fit into the palm of her hand, but she can “really stack that baby up.”
“I used to be a vegan, so the meat thing is like, ugh,” she said, laughing. “Eating that much meat has been a big change for me.”
A new lease on life
The liver is the largest gland in the body and it's a multi-purpose organ in every way.
It serves a vital function in almost every system in your body, from hormone and digestive enzyme production to blood filtration and the last stop in chemical digestion of medications. Along with the heart, brain and pancreas, the liver is an organ we cannot live without.
Until the early 1970s, liver transplant surgery was still experimental with a one-year survival rate of about 25 percent. However, the introduction of the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporin greatly improved the prognosis of those like Miles who undergo organ transplants.
Liver transplants are among the most expensive surgical procedures, typically requiring a team of three surgeons, one anesthesiologist and four nurses. It is a demanding surgery that can take between four and 18 hours.
Miles’ surgery lasted a little more than five hours and cost almost $500,000.
She said it’s hard not to cry about the almost $70,000 that was raised by friends to help pay the cost.
“I can remember as a kid riding back and forth from Charlotte to Columbia looking at that (water) tower in Lancaster with the Springmaid on it and wondering what it was,” Miles said. “I’ve been here half my life now and having this community embrace me like it has is unbelievable...letters, phone calls, e-mails and the money people have given. Lancaster is my home.
“The fundraising effort here was just miraculous,” she said. “For them to be able to raise $70,000 in the midst of depressed economic times is amazing. But all my friends are fundraisers, so what kind of set-up is that?” she said, laughing. “Man, I’m spoiled.”
While there is no exact model that predicts survival rates, transplant statistics show that a liver transplant recipient has a 58 percent chance of living another 15 years. Liver failure and rejection after transplant surgery can occur in up to 15 percent of all cases.
Right now, Miles is about two months into the three-month window for failure or rejection. With the exception of a post-surgical blood clot, Miles said she has done real well.
“I’m going to get over this and get on to doing some good stuff,” she said. “It’s wasting what happened if I don’t and I don’t want to waste a single minute.”