At age 17, Michaela Layton was a healthy, athletic high school senior. She rarely got sick, so when she didn’t feel well in late 2012 she thought she had the flu.
Blood tests at her local hospital proved otherwise and she was immediately sent to for tests which revealed Wilson’s disease, a rare genetic disease that causes copper to build-up in the liver.
Michaela was admitted to the intensive care unit, and was told she needed a liver transplant within days to survive. Thankfully, she received that new liver and got her second chance at life.
Now 18, Michaela is passionate about organ donation.
“Organ donation saved my life,” said Michaela, “and I want to tell as many people as I can.”
She is known to get very creative abo ut her message, too. Michaela and her friends made and proudly wear orange organ donation shirts. One shirt reads, “My best friend was saved by organ donation.” She painted and rode in a donation-themed stock car to spread the message at the Jefferson Speedway. Her family made shirts for this event, and even distributed some to the pit crew. She loves to support the Dottie Donor Dot mascot program, and especially enjoys escorting her mom, Wendy, when she wears the costume.
Michaela is also an ambassador at her community’s annual blood drive. She spends time promoting the importance of being a blood donor to her friends and other young people to help build the next generation of blood donors. She includes the message of registering as an organ donor, as well.
Wendy, Michaela’s mom, explained that prior to her daughter’s illness, the family had not been truly aware of the significance of organ donation.
“We all have the stickers on our licenses,” said Wendy, “but we never knew how truly important that was. When you think about the fact that someone lost their life, but was able to save another person, well, as a family it makes us strive to make sure everyone we know is aware of organ donation.”
After enduring her illness and transplant, and with the love and support of family and friends, Michaela was able to graduate from high school. She is attending college and hopes to work in marketing and public relations with a focus on health care, transplant and organ donation.
“With my personal experience,” says Michaela, “I can help others understand the importance of registering as a donor, and help those who are going through what I did.”
“We are so proud of Michaela,” said Wendy, “and we know that her attitude is one of the reasons she is doing so well today. I truly feel Michaela has been chosen to be the young person to go out and educate the world.”