ELYRIA — Less than a year ago, she was an active 13-year-old girl, playing volleyball, joining church youth group activities and swimming in a summer swim league.
All of that changed in late October when Rebecca Woytek, of Dacula, Ga., returned home from a church retreat with “highlighter yellow” eyes, according to her mother, Tami Follmer Woytek, who grew up in the Lorain County area.
WHAT: Children’s Organ Transplant Association fundraiser in honor of Rebecca Woytek
WHEN: 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association Union Hall, 1808 W. 58th St., Cleveland
COST: $25 per person
FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TICKETS: Email email@example.com
Rebecca’s pediatrician immediately referred the family to a liver specialist, and Rebecca’s condition was monitored closely. Her condition quickly worsened.
Diagnosis: primary sclerosing cholangitis and autoimmune hepatitis of the liver. She was admitted to the hospital in December and again at the end of January. She stayed in the hospital for 19 days, having a stent put in her bile ducts. She became septic and spent three days in the ICU.
“She blew up to 200 pounds with fluid; she’s normally 140 pounds,” Woytek said. “That’s when they said her liver was bad.”
Rebecca was placed on the transplant wait list.
“They said it could either go really quick, or that it was going to take a while because of her blood type,” Woytek recalled.
It ended up being rather quick. Rebecca landed back in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital in early March with a virus.
Several days later, Woytek received a call at school, where she works as a special education teacher, that they had a match. Rebecca received her new liver March 17.
Since then, the family has had successes and setbacks.
In April, Rebecca was back in the hospital for three days when her body started to reject the liver.
“She has blood drawn every two weeks,” Woytek said. “She has a small virus, and just started medication. But if you didn’t know she was sick, you couldn’t tell.”
Rebecca is starting to rebound.
She just got cleared to play volleyball again last week.
She’s allowed to swim, although the doctors would prefer private pools as opposed to public pools, and the lake near her home is off-limits.
“She gets tired a little faster now,” Woytek said of her daughter.
And the transplant is not a cure.
“It’s a treatment,” Woytek said. “This is just the new norm.”
At some point, Rebecca will need another transplant, and between now and then there will be many medical expenses.
Rebecca, who is also the daughter of Mark and Carrie Woytek, of Monroe, Ga., was introduced to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association when she was in the hospital. The agency is organizing a fundraiser in her honor Saturday, according to public relations coordinator Marta Zamiska.
“The goal is to raise $50,000,” Zamiska said. “We are at about $17,000. We started our grass-roots effort here in Cleveland, where we hope to reach $25,000 by Saturday and then transfer the fundraising effort to Georgia.”
Rebecca’s family has deep roots in Northeast Ohio. Her maternal grandparents, Sara and Clarence Follmer, live in Elyria. Her paternal grandparents, Jan and Dave Woytek, live in Fairview Park. And she has numerous relatives from Cleveland to Sandusky.
Rebecca will be at Saturday’s fundraiser, which offers pizza, beer and wine. A Chinese raffle and reverse raffle also are on the menu. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door.
All of the funds raised will go toward Rebecca’s medical expenses for life, Zamiska said.