Gift of a Lifetime

Nicole Coleman
Nicole Coleman

*Reprinted with permission from the Office of the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s December 2014 Newsletter*
This is a true story. No exaggerations. No hyperbole. I have the honor of knowing Nicole Coleman at the Clark County Coroner/Medical Examiner’s Office where I serve as a volunteer chaplain. She is a saint among us.

As the holidays approach, our thoughts drift to warm memories and joyful times with family and friends. Many of us recall incredible blessings, great and small that we have experienced. Some of these seemingly “coincidental” events turn out to be miraculous “God Winks” in our lives. Many of us may not be aware of a miracle that works among us each day.

Nicole Coleman is a woman of enormous faith and a loving heart. We know her as a woman of determination and direction, passionate about the work that she does. This determination and passion would prove crucial in her survival. As a young girl, Nicole was diagnosed with a rare liver ailment. As the ailment progressed, she was told she would need a liver transplant eventually to survive.

Liver transplants have very specific criteria and are often hard to facilitate. To be a match, the donor must have a medical history devoid of surgery – in other words, in perfect health. The living donor must donate 60% of their healthy liver to the recipient. The success of the transplant is also affected by the “emotional” connection between the donor and recipient. As one might expect, the “perfect match” is difficult to achieve.

Each member of Nicole’s family was tested as a potential donor and none met the criteria. The clock was ticking as Nichole’s health took a turn for the worse. Her jaundice was becoming more and more visibly pronounced.

In 2002, a friend invited Nicole to accompany him to Arizona to attend a NASCAR Race. He felt the trip would offer her some much-needed fun, and a temporary respite from worry. With 150,000 fans screaming over the roar of 40 cars, Nicole’s life was about to change.

Nicole’s friend, an out-going and friendly type, struck up a conversation with the man next to him. As a “God wink” coincidence, the young man happened to be from Nicole’s hometown of Carlin, Nevada. Even more astonishing, the young man was in her mother’s carpool group! As Jess and Nicole introduced themselves, he asked how she was feeling. Nicole’s mom had shared her struggles and worried with her coworkers. Nicole was surprised at home much Jess already knew about her.

Jess and Nicole began a conversation that culminated in his proposal seven months later. They has a small ceremony with family and friends; and “honeymooned” at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. As Nicole was having her health assessed, the doctors noticed something concerning on the tests. they suspected that Nicole had liver cancer, and she was told she might only have six months to live. The only way to know for certain was to remove Nicole’s liver – and for that she would need a transplant. Newly wed, the couple was devastated by the news.

For Jess, the though of losing Nicole was unbearable. In a leap of faith, he asked the doctors to test him to see if he could be that “perfect match.” He certainly had the emotional connection. Now for the rest of the test:

Blood type: MATCH
Size of Liver: MATCH
Weight and physical condition: MATCH

As Jess had never had any surgeries, he met that criterion as well. The doctors admitted him in to the hospital for a week of testing. At the end of that week, the doctors informed Jess, Nichole and their families – they were a “Perfect Match!”

Married less than xis weeks, Nicole and Jess found themselves being prepped for surgery. Nicole’s surgery was performed first so the doctors could test her liver to determine whether it was, indeed, cancerous. The result?
Cancer free! Jess was taken into surgery soon after so the transplant could proceed.

Since that time, Nicole has enjoyed good health and has a life to look forward to that she may not have had before. Regardless of the direction life has taken, Nicole and Jess will always be connected by the “God Winks” that conspired to save Nicole’s life. In those series of miracles, Nicole’s faith has grown. She is profoundly grateful for the opportunity to experience life and take nothing for granted.

While there is no doubt that the gift of life provided by an organ transplant is one of those big miracles – the gift of a NASCAR ticket turned out to be just as miraculous. “God Winks” happen every day.

Gift of a Lifetime

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