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Tivis a survivor, "walking miracle"

Friends and family members call Nancy Tivis, owner of The Fashion Girl women’s clothing store, “A Walking Miracle” and this Christmas their faith grows stronger in her and God because of her experience.

Nancy Tivis is a survivor of a liver transplant which she had in April after her liver completely quit functioning and was poisoned because of a disease called primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver.

Tivis was first diagnosed with the disease in July 2003 and was told she needed a liver transplant. Tivis went through tests and examinations to qualify to be on the waiting list for a liver transplant at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. Tivis lived most of her 65 years in Portales, but her condition forced her to move to Yukon, Okla., where her older sister, Doris Hapke, could take care of her.

Tivis went through an experience which tested her faith. Tivis endured a four and a half-hour journey from Yukon, Okla. to Dallas, Texas in an effort to save her life.

Tivis traveled with her husband, J.R. Tivis, and Hapke through a fog so blinding Hapke said you could not see your hand in front of you. The road trip was in an effort to get Nancy Tivis to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas for a liver transplant.

Nancy Tivis went experienced a dry cough, comas, and constant weight fluctuation due to biliary cirrhosis of the liver. It caused her weight to range from 117 pounds to 170 pounds.

J.R. Tivis said he was shocked when he first found out his wife’s condition.

“She never drank alcohol and she never received a blood transfusion,” J.R. Tivis said. “They told her this was inherited through the female side of the family genes. The doctor said it could have gone as far back as five generations.”

She first began suffering in 2000, according to family and friends, and now, finally in January of 2004 she was getting a new liver. Tivis received the call from Baylor Medical Center at 2:30 a.m. and she arrived at around 6 a.m. in Dallas.

She was wheeled to a room where she was prepped for surgery. A nurse attended to her, then another nurse rushed into the room and told her there would be no surgery.

The doctor said there were nodules in the liver and he didn’t feel safe conducting the surgery. He didn’t want to take the chance of giving Tivis a bad liver.

“The most disappointing part to me was when she was on the list to receive a liver transplant,” J.R. Tivis said. “She moved up to first on the list and then she would drop down to four or six. They (Integris Baptist hospital officials) said she was the sickest one on the list.”

Dejected, Nancy Tivis and her family made the trip back to Yukon, Okla., not sure if another opportunity will ever come up. Family members said they had to work so hard to convince Nancy Tivis to have the surgery, and then the option didn’t exist.

“Her doctor told her there was nothing he could do and that she would have to have a liver transplant,” Hapke recalled. “She said she wasn’t having it. To her, you didn’t go to the hospital to get well. You went to the hospital to die.”

Family members were able to convince her to have the transplant, but doubts remained.

“I agreed to have the liver transplant, but deep in my heart, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to have it (transplant),” Nancy Tivis said. “My doctor told me there was a good chance I would not live past January (of 2004).”

January came and went. Discouraged, Nancy Tivis continued to keep her faith in God and in April, she received a call from a couple of women who she taught in Sunday school at Portales. One of the women was Pearl Kale. Kale asked her why she was not on the list for a liver transplant at the Integris Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City, which was within 20 miles of Yukon. Nancy Tivis said her doctor advised her to get on the list at the Baylor Medical Center. Nancy Tivis was advised there was no reason why she couldn’t be on both lists.

Nancy Tivis said after only three weeks of being on the list at Integris Baptist Hospital, she was able to have a successful liver transplant.

Nancy Tivis said her friends and family from Portales have prayed for her throughout the entire ordeal.

“Our life is back to 95 percent of where it was before she got sick,” J.R. Tivis said. “She doesn’t have all of her strength back but she is still able to do a lot of things. I tell you one of the biggest things I learned is to enjoy life to the fullest.”

Nancy Tivis said she feels good and her health has allowed her to return to The Fashion Girl to run her business.

“I hope my experience can encourage those who are waiting for a transplant to continue to have faith,” Nancy Tivis said. “I kept my faith in God.”

Doctors have advised her that she needs to be extremely careful until May and make sure not to get into large crowds and run the risk of catching germs. Nancy Tivis said she will have to take medication for her new liver, for her immune system and she can’t drink coffee or tea and must drink bottled water.

“She’s a walking miracle,” Nancy Gentry, her friend for more than 20 years, said. “I believe it’s a miracle for her to be doing as well as she’s doing. She wanted to fight to live.”