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Give Blood Share Joy: 14-year-old Hannah Anderson's transplant story

"I just feel like my heart just dropped...I don't even know if I fully grasped, grasped all of that, at that moment,” said Christina Anderson, Hannah’s mom.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The hardest thing about life can be the letting go especially when we have to let go of those who mean so much to us.

In this story, we meet Hannah Anderson. It was another family’s bravery of letting go that allowed Hannah to live.

While life is shaped by time, it’s our faith that allows us to make the most of it.

“You can't see air, but you breathe it. You can't see God, but He's there. I'm here because He's there. And I just feel blessed that I'm here right now,” said Hannah Anderson, a liver transplant recipient.

It is a blessing that came in the form of an unforeseeable exchange, one life for the continuation of several others including now 14-year-old Hannah. She fell ill in 2016.

“My stomach started hurting really bad and it didn't start hurting until then. My parents had felt my stomach and it was like, hard. At the time, it looked like I was pregnant,” said Hannah. “It was like sharp pains. And then it was like, a lot of different pains at the same time.”

Hannah’s parents rushed her to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where doctors performed test after test.

ABC 24 asked, “What was it like to hear the doctor come in and say, ‘Hannah has liver failure?’”

“I just think…I just feel like my heart just dropped. You know it. I don't even know if I fully grasped, grasped all of that, at that moment,” said Christina Anderson, Hannah’s mother.

At just nine years old, completely blindsided and not fully understanding, Hannah needed a liver transplant.

“My parents were really scared and stuff. I was like wondering what was wrong,” said Hannah.

“While it was a very scary thing, we really…We were able to use the time that we had that we weren’t sure how much time that was to be able to spend with her,” said Christina.

Realizing every moment now precious, Hannah’s parents were ready to risk it all for their daughter.  

“My husband was not a match for us for his blood type. I was a match for her blood type, so I did the rest of the testing,” said Christina.

Hannah’s mom was preparing to be a donor, but everything changed right before approval.

“They called us and said we have a donor. And we need to come to the hospital right away,” said Christina. “We had so many people praying over us…I can't really explain it. We had this peace that it didn’t feel like the world was ending.”

As the Andersons’ prayers were answered, another’s silenced.

ABC 24 asked, “What kind of feelings did you have having someone else step in, right on time?”

“I…I had so many emotions... all at one time,” said Christina.

Hannah’s donor was just a boy himself.

“His name is Sawyer,” said Christina.

Living 10 short years, Sawyer passed away from a congenital brain condition.

He was an energetic, brilliant, and fearless boy and now the reason for life in seven others.

“The family reached out to us within a year or two of her transplant and sent us pictures and shared about his life,” said Christina.

In a letter to the Andersons, Sawyer’s family wrote, “...please know it was Sawyer’s zest for life, and our need for that zest to not die with him, that we chose to donate his seven organs…His nickname was SOY. We chose three words that encapsulated his life. He was Strong. He was Outrageous…He was uniquely himself, thus the You.”

“I can't imagine what a mother goes through when she loses a child of any age and how difficult that can be,” said Christina. “Then the fact that Hannah was able to live through this moment, I can't really pinpoint any specific emotion.”

It is an emotion between heartbreak and thankfulness.

“It was a very umm… I’m sorry. There’s just so much that we went through and I’m just very grateful for Hannah that she’s here,” said Christina.

Though young, already Hannah understands where hope can take her

“It tells me that I'm, like, strong. I can do like anything. Like, if I could go through a liver transplant and love then I could go through like many other things,” said Hannah.

She now lets faith lead.

Christina says her family is stronger and closer. That is all thanks to their donor. That is why she’s encouraging others to become donors and help give the gift of life, a gift of courage, sacrifice, and hope.

ABC 24 is also joining in on those efforts. It is part of our “Give Blood, Share Joy” campaign. All month long, we are hosting blood drives in the community.

The first drive is Thursday, December 2nd, at Kroger in the Poplar Plaza from 8:30am-1:30pm.

For a list of location to donate this month, text “GIVEBLOOD” TO (901) 321-7520.