Zoey Zalusky, Donor
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We will miss her big laugh and love of life...
In December 2015, our family suffered the greatest loss any family can face. We were told that our beautiful, vibrant 19-year-old daughter, Zoey, would never recover from the coma she had been in for the last 10 days. Despite extensive testing, the doctors could not tell us what had caused the coma. In the midst of our devastation, we made the decision to donate Zoey’s organs, and that was how we eventually found out what had happened to our sweet girl.
Sadly, the recipient of Zo’s liver donation died a few days after the transplant. After further testing, it was determined that a rare, genetic disorder had been passed to him through the liver. We learned the name of the disorder was Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency (OTC Deficiency), and in very simple terms, this disorder causes the body to be unable to process protein efficiently. When this happens, protein byproducts accumulate in the form of ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic to the body and, if high enough levels are reached, it can cause swelling of the brain, coma and death.
Unfortunately, there can be a partial enzyme deficiency, which is what Zoey had. She was able to live a normal, healthy, active life with virtually no recognizable symptoms. We still do not know exactly why Zoey’s liver gradually stopped eliminating the ammonia at this time in her life. In the weeks prior, she had been complaining of nausea, vomiting and some disorientation, but at no time did we or any of the doctors that she saw suspect that anything this serious was going on.
We will miss Zoey and her big laugh and love of life every single day – our hearts will always have a hole in them. We hope that telling Zoey’s story will raise awareness both for Urea Cycle Disorders and for the importance of organ donation.