KayLeigh Hahn, an 18-year-old junior at Centralia High School, waited more than two years for a liver transplant to correct a rare metabolic disorder that kept her from processing protein and participating in activities at school.
KayLeigh got a call in school on Dec. 19 that the Seattle Children’s Hospital had a liver for her and surgery was scheduled early the next morning.
“I started to cry at first,” KayLeigh said. “I ran to the attendance office to sign out. They asked what was wrong. I said, ‘Nothing, nothing is wrong for once.’”
After nearly two months of recovery at the children’s hospital, KayLeigh is back at school, spending time with friends and enjoying food her body was never able to process.
KayLeigh, who was born with an affliction commonly known as maple syrup urine disease, could never eat protein, including birthday cakes, hamburgers and other protein-based meals.
She had to drink a special formula to keep her body nourished.
When KayLeigh woke up from the eight-hour transplant surgery, the first food she wanted to try was Jello, then some ham and chocolate pudding, which her family brought in to the hospital.
“I didn’t want my first meal to be at the hospital,” KayLeigh said.
KayLeigh kept up on her school work while at the Children’s Hospital and returned to class last month ready to finish her junior year. She said she plans to play volleyball and do water aerobics along with other activities she didn’t have the coordination for while living with her metabolic disease.
“I used to have no hand-eye coordination and now I do have some,” KayLeigh said.
After she graduates next year, KayLeigh said she will attend Centralia College for two years, then transfer to the University of Washington to study nursing.
“I want to work at the Children’s Hospital,” KayLeigh said. “I’m really good with kids and I want to give back as much as I can. Ultimately, my goal is to be on the transplant team.”
Tawnia Hahn, KayLeigh’s mother, said her family is grateful for the transplant and will write a letter of thanks to the donor’s family.
“She has been in and out of hospitals all her life,” Tawnia said. “She is very lucky to be alive.”