Lifesaving, life-giving

Phoenix woman survives liver transplant and celebrates birth of her baby

Danielle and Faith BuckelewWhen Danielle Buckelew gave birth to her daughter, Faith, at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical, the joy was overwhelming. The miracle of birth is always cause to celebrate, but Faith’s entrance into the world marked a double-milestone for the hospital: Danielle was the first St. Joseph’s patient to receive a lifesaving liver transplant before giving birth to a child.

Danielle’s relationship with St. Joseph’s began less than two years earlier, under dire circumstances. She had suffered severe weight loss due, was extremely weak, and her skin and eyes had taken on a yellow tint. Her mother and husband knew something was desperately wrong, but it took strong convincing for the mother of two to finally seek help.

By the time she arrived at St. Joseph’s emergency room, Danielle was sicker than ever. She was whisked away for testing before receiving news that her liver was barely functioning. The transplant team at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute, home of a nation-leading lung transplant program as well as kidney and liver transplant programs, was called into action.

Some of the last moments Danielle remembers before her liver transplant were being told she was going to die; instead of accepting the news, she and a transport nurse agreed they were going to prove the doctors wrong. With the efforts of Justin Reynolds, MD, the medical director at the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation at St. Joseph’s, they succeeded.

Two weeks after undergoing the lifesaving transplant, Danielle returned home to her husband of 15 years, Justin, and their children, Preston, 11, and Hannah, 9. Her health continued to improve and she resumed her busy life, only to learn it would get even busier a year later.

A couple days after her post-transplant anniversary, Danielle discovered she was expecting. Doctors outside of St. Joseph’s expressed concerns about the pregnancy: Danielle was in her mid-30s, was on rejection medication, and had just narrowly recovered from serious illness. But, Danielle was rooted in her beliefs. She again decided to turn to St. Joseph’s for help—this time from obstetrician-gynecologist Robert Brady, MD.

Although baby Faith arrived six weeks early, with care from St. Joseph’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit, she has thrived. Danielle remains full of gratitude for her blessings and thankful for the care she received by everyone at St. Joseph’s.

“The treatment I received made me feel right at home,” she says. Even more importantly, she adds, “St. Joseph’s gave my kids their mom back!”