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Sand Springs middle school principal receives liver transplant with only a few hours left to live

Louise Pond, the Clyde Boyd Elementary School principal in Sand Springs, suffered from acute liver failure and was hours from death when Oklahoma City doctors performed a liver transplant that saved her life.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 4, 2012

For middle school students in Sand Springs waiting for their principal to return, Louise Pond has a simple message: “Get to work.”

Pond doesn't remember a lot about what happened during the past few weeks, but she does know she wants the attention and focus away from her and back on her students' education.

“I want the kids to work,” Pond said. “They have tests. They have jobs to do. It's almost time for basketball season — let's get that under way, and wrestling season. And let's get them on the road to testing.”

Pond, the principal at Clyde Boyd Middle School in Sand Springs, has spent the past few weeks at OU Medical Center, where, at one point, she was hours from death.

Pond needed a liver transplant after she developed a type of acute liver failure, fulminant hepatic failure, that develops suddenly and often without a known cause.

Doctors find out the cause in only about 60 percent of cases such as Pond's, said Dr. Harlan Wright, medical director of the liver transplant program at the Oklahoma Transplant Center at OU Medical Center.

“More often than not, what we have is the damage that's left, and we can never really identify what it is that damaged the liver,” Wright said.

The liver is the largest organ inside the human body. It is also one of the most important, changing food into energy and cleaning alcohol and poisons from the blood.

Pond started feeling sick the last week in July. She was at teacher evaluation training when her eyes and skin turned yellow.

On Aug. 17, she was taken from a Tulsa hospital to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City after it was determined she needed a liver transplant.

Doctors soon placed Pond on the national liver transplant donor list. She was a “status one” patient, meaning any liver in the Texas and Oklahoma region would go to her.

But Pond's condition was rapidly deteriorating. Her liver was failing, and her kidneys were shutting down. She had to be put on a breathing machine and was placed on medications to keep her blood pressure up.

“If not for those medications, her heart would stop,” said Dr. Anthony Sebastian, the founding director and chief of the Oklahoma Transplant Center at OU Medical Center.

Difficult decisions

But good news soon came — a liver was available in San Antonio. Early Sunday, a medical team took a plane to a San Antonio hospital to pick up the liver.

Sebastian said the medical team had to make a difficult decision, though.

“As they were procuring the organ, Mrs. Pond's condition took a turn for the worse,” he said.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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