Overcoming alcohol-related liver disease | University of Michigan
Every year, 38-year-old Sara Nabors goes on a girls’ trip with her mother. And in the fall of 2018, these holidays were especially significant.
“I had major health issues before our trip. I recently had knee surgery which resulted in unexpected painful sensations in my limbs,” Nabors said. “Also, I had recently completed an inpatient rehabilitation program.”
However, Nabors felt healthy when she arrived in Savannah, Georgia, and was ready to enjoy life again.
“I was really looking forward to spending time with my mom and seeing a new city on our getaway,” she said. “Our daughters’ trips are always great fun and allow us to really connect.”
During the first dinner of their stay, Nabors drank two glasses of wine with his meal. It was early evening, and although she felt a little unwell, she attributed it to travel exhaustion. But when she woke up the next morning, she couldn’t believe what she saw in the mirror.
“When I went to bed, my skin had its normal skin tone and nothing seemed out of the ordinary,” Nabors said. “Still, when I woke up, I was completely yellow. It was absolutely terrifying.
Her mother immediately took her to a nearby hospital, where they performed several tests to assess the situation.
“They biopsied my liver and said my numbers were ‘out of control,'” she said. “They then told me that I had complete cirrhosis of the liver and needed immediate medical attention.”
Nabors and her mother, who both live in Howell, Michigan, then flew directly to Michigan Medicine. There she met a team of liver experts, including Jessica Mellinger, MDwho specializes in hepatological transplantation, gastroenterology and internal medicine.
“When I first saw Sara she was extremely sick,” Mellinger said. “Our diagnosis was liver disease, which was clearly linked to alcohol consumption. She was very direct about her drinking habits, which we really appreciated.
Mellinger also notes that Nabors was put on dialysis because her kidneys were beginning to fail as a direct result of alcohol-related liver disease.
“We wanted to get him on the liver transplant list as soon as possible,” she said. “But we also wanted to make sure that we could see an improvement and connection with prior alcohol treatment.
It was then that Nabors began receiving treatment at the Michigan Alcohol Improvement Network, which is designed to holistically treat alcohol-related liver disease.
“Once liver patients become ill, mental health professionals are quite removed from their care plans, in the traditional sense,” Winder said. “It’s rather ironic, given that mental health plays such a large role in the development of alcohol use disorders in the first place. It made sense for us to incorporate a psychological component when creating the clinic.
Nabors began seeing Winder and Mellinger regularly as part of her treatment plan. And soon his health began to improve significantly.
“We eventually listed Sara for a transplant, but her lab results were slowly improving,” Mellinger said. “When we first started seeing Sara, her MELD score was very high. This is a measure used to assess the severity of chronic liver disease in a patient. But over time, her score started to drop. , which was really amazing to see.
Mellinger adds that just a few months ago she informed Nabors that her MELD score was so low that she could be successfully delisted for liver transplants.
“Thanks to the support of Drs. Mellinger and Winder, my whole life has changed,” Nabors said. “I wanted to stay alive for my daughter, so really working with them and the rest of the clinic staff was crucial to my survival.”
Nabors adds that her work with Winder directly helped her abstain from alcohol.
“I regularly use the tools that Dr. Winder gave me to not drink. It’s a really wonderful thing,” Nabors said. “In one of my recent conversations with Dr. Mellinger, she shared that alcohol-related liver disease is becoming more prevalent among young women, like me. And that’s why I wanted to share my story, to help others.