Katie Neely hid her illness for more than seven years. Most of her co-workers never knew how ill she was, how exhausted she was or how her skin itched all the time. Katie has Primary Sclerosing Chonlangitis, a disease of the liver.
"She stayed happy and sweet in public, for work. It was hard," said her mother Bev Day. "She didn't feel good. She felt very fatigued. She kept this to herself a long time."
But Katie's long ordeal with the disease may be coming to an end as she prepares to undergo a liver transplant operation. Her sister, Alisa, will donate 60 percent of her liver.
Katie began having symptoms in 1997 after the birth of her first daughter, Makayla. She was tested and cleared of Hepatitis B and didn't seek more medical attention. In 1999 after the birth of her second daughter, Kinley, the symptoms got worse.
She went to the doctor and "he went into the liver and found out it was being blocked," Katie explained. "They opened up the blocked duct."
But it didn't work. The ducts that carry the bile out of Katie's liver are blocked, causing a build up of bile, which is damaging the liver cells.
"They open me up and I close right back up," Katie said.
Eventually, PCS can cause complete liver failure.
A transplant is Katie's only option.
She had hoped to have the transplant performed in Portland, but she never made it on the list. When her husband Randy's insurance changed, she learned she'd have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for a transplant if she didn't go to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"It shocked us," she said. "We were used to the Portland team."
She flew to the Mayo Clinic for pre-transplant tests. She was notified in May that she was on the transplant list.
But the family opted for a live transplant rather than receiving an organ from a cadaver.
Her mother, Bev, wanted to donate, but doctors determined she couldn't because she's diabetic. Next was 19-year-old Alisa, Katie's sister.
"I cried for a while ," Bev said. "I didn't want both my girls under the knife."
But after 20 minutes on the phone, Alisa was judged a good donor. At the end of July the sisters flew to Scottsdale for more tests. The last was a liver biopsy.
Alisa's liver was a good match. She'll give Katie 60 percent of her liver in an operation scheduled for Sept. 17.
"Alisa will basically give Katie her whole right lobe and they will have to take her gall bladder as well," Bev said. "Katie won't get that."
Alisa's liver eventually will regenerate to full size, but she will always only have the left side of her liver, while Katie has the right.
"It won't matter," Bev said. "The left and right do the same thing."
Alisa will be at the Mayo Clinic for one month.
"She should be OK in two weeks, but they will keep her down there until she is completely out of danger, because of the distance," Bev said.
Katie's family faced a tough and controversial decision when choosing to have the live donor transplant.
"Alisa had a very personal reason for doing this," Bev said. "There is an 11-year difference in the girls, because I had seven kids. Alisa is the youngest and Katie was my alternative mom. She took over as Alisa's mom. So Alisa just wants to see Katie healthy again."
The procedure also is controversial because it puts a healthy person in jeopardy, instead of using the liver from a cadaver.
But Bev noted that "the Mayo Clinic has never lost a live donor."
Katie will remain at the clinic for three months. Randy will be with her the first two weeks and then Bev will take over for him. Katie and Randy's children will live with his parents, Arnie and Carol Neely, until the family can be reunited.
Alisa's employer, Hermiston New Holland, has been supportive and will hold her job.
"I just want (Katie) to be like she used to be," Alisa said. "She rarely, if ever, raised her voice. She was never tired. She always wanted a family - girls. I don't think the girls got what I got from Katie. I just want the old Katie back."