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Gloria Edel: Overcoming Health Issues, Surgeries, and Replacement Body Parts

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Overcome—Who has had 3 liver transplants, 2 hip replacements, 2 knee replacements, and countless surgeries and hospital stays, but also has two sons, knows 8 languages, and is an avid sportsperson, spinning instructor, and blogger? I'd venture to guess that very few of you do. Even if you do know that person—her name is Gloria Edel—I'd bet my bottom dollar you couldn't put her story into your own words. Neither can I, so I'll let her tell most of it in her words, taken from the synopsis of her book, revealed on her blog 4 Livers and No Funeral:

"The first strange symptoms occurred when I was twelve. My sisters and I, born and raised in Germany, are in a way first- generation African-American Europeans. In the beginning, my mother and I thought that the seizures were an isolated incident. More and more symptoms occurred, signs of some undiagnosed health condition."

Fast forward a little while. She says, "I moved to Los Angeles. During one of my hospital stays, a doctor suggested a liver transplant. I flew to Pittsburgh, the only place in the world where they were being performed. Success at last! Thanks to Dr. Starzl and his team, I was healthy. I got married and finally had the family I had always dreamed of. After the very precarious birth of my first miracle son, my doctor warned me not to become pregnant again. But I did. Inadvertently. Against all odds and against my doctor’s and everyone’s advice, I went through with the pregnancy. This decision added tension to my failing marriage, as did the devastating news that I had contracted Hepatitis B."

"If there was one thing I knew how to do, however, it is to fight for my life. I began working out at the gym as if strengthening my muscles could defeat the killer inside of me. Hepatitis though, can never be defeated, especially since I already had a depressed immune system. Soon after my divorce, I met and married my current husband. I truly believed that through a healthy lifestyle, healers, plenty of sports, and the love of my husband and sons, I could save my sick liver. Firmly ensconced in denial and determination, the boys and I followed my producer husband to his movie sets. We were in Russia when I realized that my hip would have to be replaced."

"Things began to unravel fast," Gloria says. Hepatitis had won and she had to have more surgery. Her husband, family, and friends waited for six weeks after that surgery for her to regain consciousness. "My nightmare however, was just beginning. I did not touch food for four months and instead hooked myself up to intravenous feed every night. Once I recovered fully, I returned to my two passions, learning languages and exercising. Life was good, and my health was fine. Or so I thought."

"While lying on a gurney en route to having another knee replaced, I found out that I was rejecting my second, transplanted liver. My husband was in Germany working on a movie. He dropped everything to be by my side in Miami where I was being treated. For ten days, the doctors went back and forth on whether my liver could be saved or not. Then my husband and I were sent home, back to Los Angeles, with the warning that I would need a new liver and, oh yeah, by the way a kidney as well. I received my third liver at the very last minute, just before...my husband was nominated for an Oscar."

There obviously isn't enough space here to adequately describe the breadth of her experience, nor what it is that keeps her going. I encourage you to read her blog and follow her on Twitter. She sums it up with these words: "Liver disease, which has been with me for the greater part of my existence, and influenced every aspect of my life, became a catalyst rather than a hindrance. If, through my story, I manage to inspire and empower one person, then it will have been worth writing."

Gloria's book Four Livers and No Funeral comes out in October.

When you encounter an issue with your health, what helps you power through it and overcome the bumpy road? What steps do you take to give yourself confidence and support?

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