Surgeon Meets Liver Transplant Patient in Temple

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Students in Brad Billeaudeaux’s Temple High theater arts class on Monday witnessed the power of words when Dr. Robert Goldstein, a transplant surgeon from Baylor Scott & White in Dallas, came to the class to meet Ashli Taylor. Fourteen years ago, Goldstein removed part of Ashli’s mother’s liver, which was then transplanted into Ashli, who was less than a year old and had congenital cirrhosis of the liver. The Temple Daily Telegram ( ) reports not long after Ashli was born, she began showing symptoms of liver disease and eventually a biopsy revealed the seriousness of the situation.

On June 21, 2001, she was placed on the National Organ Transplant List and her health continued to decline. On Sept. 11, 2001, Ashli and her mother, Crystal Pope-Taylor, were on their way to Houston to see another physician. They received a call from “Nanna” telling them to turn around because the country was under attack. Two other calls came in: Ashli needed to be hospitalized because of an infection and another announcing a liver for transplant was available. However, the organ was in another state and needed to be flown in, but all flights were grounded after the terrorist attacks.

Pope-Taylor immediately began to pursue becoming a living donor to her daughter. Ashli, 15, shared that story in her letter to Goldstein. “You probably have no idea who I am, but you had a great impact in my life,” she wrote to Goldstein. “I know you’ve had a lot of patients over the years and they appreciate your work. But my parents’ lives would be totally different if it weren’t for you, especially my mom.” The letter began as a class assignment from Billeaudeaux to write about anything. “All of you have incredible stories to tell and this class is a vehicle for that,” Billeaudeaux said. “Y’all have power in your words.” That’s when Goldstein walked into the classroom, followed by Pope-Taylor. “Ashli, I’m your mom’s surgeon,” he said. “You wrote me a letter and it was amazing.” The things you do and say have an effect, Goldstein told the class. “It had been 14 years and out of the blue you get a letter like this and I can’t tell you what this means,” he said. “The words moved everybody in the office.”

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