Emily Sneed received a phone call on Wednesday, June 30 that she knew would forever change her life and the life of her daughter.
Fourteen-year-old Isabella Gonzalez would be getting a liver transplant.
Isabella was born with a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia. She spent her first 6 months of life at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, having surgeries and procedures.
Since then Isabella’s life has been riddled with constant doctors’ appointments, checkups, procedures, and daily medications to help give her the best quality of life possible. As was expected, her liver continued to deteriorate, and a few months ago she was placed on the National Transplant Registry in hopes of finding a new liver.
Isabella underwent a 12-hour surgery last Wednesday night. There were complications during the surgery but she is improving daily.
As she continues to heal during the next few months, her mother will be there by her side. That means she won’t be working her normal, busy schedule as a beautician. To help out, friends and family members have started an online auction to help raise money for the family.
“Emily is self-employed and had to navigate 2020 Covid regulations for salons, only to be faced with three months off work to care for Isabella during and after the transplant,” said Shannon Sexton, a local business owner who co-owns a boutique store located inside Emily’s salon, Hello Gorgeous. “The least we can do is step up and help them. That’s what’s great about Adair County. We always step up.”
Emily talks about the mixed emotions they have experienced knowing that the surgery would save her daughter but another family was mourning a loss. She has also been in awe of the support from the community.
“Isabella has made so much progress each day the doctors are just amazed. Right after surgery I couldn’t believe the amount of calls and texts we had started receiving. Everyone was praying so hard for her and prayers are getting answered every day,” she said. “Our community, friends, family, churches and even people I have never met started donating us money, care packages, e-cards (probably 100 + e-cards) and setting up fundraisers.”
A fundraising auction is taking place on a Facebook page named “Belle-A-Thon.” Items are being donated for auction and deadlines to bid will vary but begin on July 10. Locations to drop off donations are also provided on the Facebook page.
Sexton, LaGene Sexton, also a co-owner of the boutique, and Holly Owens, Emily’s cousin, are organizing the fundraiser.
“I couldn’t believe how many of our community have made donations,” Emily said. “It’s so amazing being part of a community that is there for you. I am so proud Columbia is my home. The nurses made comments about all the cards, stuffed animals, and balloons. They said, ‘this girl is loved,’ and the chaplain couldn’t believe the support we had from our community.
“We appreciate everything that everyone has done for us. It’s been amazing seeing the response. We hope everyone continues to pray for Isabella and also for the family of her donor. I hope someday I can personally thank them for giving Isabella the ability to live a full, happy life.”
Isabella is also the daughter of Daniel Gonzalez and is the granddaughter of Ronnie and Connie Stone, of Columbia.
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By Sharon Burton