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ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT GRATEFUL FOR NEW LOVE OF LIFE FOLLOWING LENGTHY ILLNESS, ORDEAL OF LIVER TRANSPLANT

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Dec. 7 is Janice Keller's birthday, but she's changed that celebration to the day she was born again, so to speak, after a life-saving liver transplant.

Now Nov. 30 is the big day.After feeling desperately sick for a long time with non-alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, Keller made it to surgery last year. But first she lingered on a waiting list for five months before a suitable transplant donor could be found. She also wrangled with an insurance company over payment, ended up getting some much-needed money from a community fund drive and underwent an eight-week convalescence.

It was worth it, though.

Keller, the administrative assistant to the Salt Lake superintendent of schools, now is renewed, energetic and grateful to everyone who made her recovery possible.

She'll never meet the family of the 19-year-old woman whose liver she received, but Keller said, "I really would like to hug them. I can't imagine what they went through. I really feel great sorrow for a family that lost a 19-year-old daughter.

"I don't know how to deal with this - that someone else's tragedy turned into new life for me."

She also has good words for LDS Hospital doctors ("they're heroes, of course"), the nurses, the volunteers and other people in her life who offered encouragement and support. "I felt surrounded by prayers and good wishes. They buoyed me up."

The progress that's been made in transplant programs has made it possible for her to resume her old life with a gusto that she could only think about when she was sick. She's back to enjoying her favorite pastimes of reading, theater, the symphony and golf.

Transplant surgery also can change people emotionally and spiritually.

In Keller's case, the transformation has been so significant, yet so subtle, that she's hard pressed to express what it means.

"I'll give you a flippant answer: I've always been afraid of spiders, but now I don't know if I want to kill one. Everyone and everything has a right to life.

"I'm more optimistic now and more likely to see a possibility in every day," Keller said. "It's great to wake up in the morning."