Local woman is face of surviving liver disease

 By: Alexandra Cowley 


Liver Disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. One in ten Americans have some form of it, and many may not even know it. That’s because the misconceptions of what causes the disease, makes some people blind to it.

72–year–old Sandra Dickson of East Providence practices the speech she’ll give at this years Liver Life Walk as the foundation’s walk Champion.

“I stand before you as an inspiration, please believe that we can conquer this,” Dickson read. 

Dickson holds up pictures of what she looked like many years ago. 

“This is when I was starting to get sick, losing weight, gaining weight, I couldn’t even walk,” she explained.

20 years ago Dickson started having bad stomach problems and was shocked when her doctor, Alan Epstein, told her she had liver damage.

“I told him that I never drank, or smoked, or took a drug in my life,” Dickson said. 

Dr. Alan Epstein, of Roger Williams Medical Center, has been leading the Gastroenterology Unit for over 20 years. 

“There’s a lot of stigma about patients, it’s not all alcohol, its not all substance abuse,” said Dr. Epstein. 

There are more than one hundred forms of liver disease. At least 30 million Americans have some form of it.

“There’s a lot of unknown kind of quiet liver disease out there,” explained Dr. Epstein. 

In Dickson’s case, it was a fatty liver brought on by diabetes. Tests showed her liver was showing beginning signs of Cirrhosis. 

“But he said it’s not bad just take care of yourself,” Dickson explained. 

Dickson listened to the doctor’s orders and remained healthy. In 2010, her condition took a turn for the worse.

“That’s when I started getting yellow. My weight was up and down. You know I couldn’t even walk. I was dragging, not walking. That’s when I went back to him and he sent me right to U-Mass Hospital,” she remembered.

Dickson needed a new liver or she wasn’t going to make it.”

Her daughter Susan remembers when the doctors delivered the terrible news. 

“It was really sad when the doctor said we’re at a bad place right now and I said what does that mean? And he said your mother is going to pass away if she doesn’t get a liver within the next couple of hours,” said Susan. 

A few hours later, Dickson got the liver that saved her life.

“Sandra is lucky. For every Sandra Dickson that you see there are four others who didn’t get transplanted, sad,” explained Dr. Epstein. 

Dickson has been healthy now for more than a year.

“Dreams and hopes do come true,” she smiled. 

The Liver Life Walk is coming up this Sunday, May 17th at Goddard State Park.

If you’re interested in taking part, you can find the information here: http://go.liverfoundation.org/site/TR?fr_id=4801&pg=entry

(C) WLNE-2015