Thriving despite her illness
Balancing life and health issues
Colleen was born on March 12, 1993. At four months old, she was diagnosed with biliary atresia (BA), to this day, the most serious liver disease of infancy and childhood. Colleen had a liver transplant at 7 months old, and at 22 months old, underwent 6 months of chemotherapy for Burkitts Lymphoma - at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
From 3 years old through grade school at Grace Episcopal Day School in Kensington, Colleen had a stretch of good health, but throughout middle school and high school, she battled infections and other liver complications – enough to be put on the liver transplant list. Despite her health problems, Colleen enjoyed her high school years, which included playing field hockey and spending time with her brother and her friends.
She graduated from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, and in the fall of 2011, went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where her doctors coordinated closely with her doctors at Hopkins, ensuring she had continuous medical care whether at home or in Ann Arbor.
Colleen enjoyed her freshman year at Michigan, going to football games and participating in the Best Buddies program. She majored in Psychology and planned to become an occupational therapist working with children with physical and intellectual limitations.
An inspiration to all
Unfortunately her health declined during the fall of her sophomore year as she battled continual infections and multiple hospitalizations. After spending a month in intensive care awaiting another liver transplant, Colleen passed away on Monday, March 4, 2013 – a week shy of her 20th birthday.
Colleen was determined not to let her illness define her. She was an inspiration to all who knew her as she courageously handled recurrent health issues due to chronic liver disease. Her medical records at Johns Hopkins over 19 years noted over 190 medical entries, including 15 operations and 41 hospital admissions.
Many admired her strength and resilience, knowing all that she went through as an infant and toddler – the liver transplant, lymphoma, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and hospitalizations. Some didn’t know her personally but were impacted by her story, chronicled through Red Cross blood drive posters.
As a tribute to Colleen and to aid in the effort to discover the cause of biliary atresia, the liver disease she was born with, Colleen’s family has organized an annual charity event: Colleen’s BA 5K.