Sarah Gwaltney


"Sarah entered this world with an impish smile, sparkling eyes, and a spirited personality. Her mischievous antics and irrepressible laughter brought out the “silly” in all of us!

"Just after her 3rd birthday, we began to notice very subtle changes in Sarah’s behavior. There were sudden drops in her energy level leaving her lethargic, - almost limp. At bedtime she complained of severe pain in her joints or, as she called it, her “back of knees”. Her thirst became increasingly frequent as her appetite all but disappeared. Watchful concern gave way to worry, and a visit to the pediatrician culminated with one simple, but unforgettable phrase, “Mom, we have a problem.” Sarah’s liver was swollen … hepatitis? … hopefully the common Hep A virus. Nine days later, after extensive lab work, an ultrasound, and a liver biopsy, we received the most feared diagnosis – Autoimmune Hepatitis with stage 4 cirrhosis of the liver. Sarah’s body was rejecting its own liver causing severe, irreparable damage.

"None of the numerous medications tried over the next three years was successful in curbing the progression of the insidious disease. The enlarged liver and spleen filled Sarah’s abdomen. The pain was overwhelming. In December, 2003, Sarah’s care was evaluated by the liver transplant team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston and was officially listed in early January, 2004. The small, black pager became our constant companion.

"The next two months rushed by at an agonizingly slow pace until mid-March when we received the miracle call, - again we heard unforgettable words, “Mom, we have the perfect liver for Sarah!” Sarah received her gift of life on March 17, 2004, and will celebrate her eleven year anniversary having had only one occurrence of rejection.

"Sarah will always take anti-rejection medications and liver function will be closely monitored since a transplanted organ can be rejected at any time. In addition, she contends with chronic migraine headaches and a painful form of arthritis every day that affects her hips, knees, and ankles.

"But, Sarah does not let any of these control her life. At eighteen she carries a full load in the 12th grade and also plays in the front ensemble of the Lassiter High School Marching Band. She is hoping to take a gap year next fall in the mission field before starting college. Though she continues to face overwhelming obstacles, Sarah perseveres with determination, grace and confidence because of her faith in Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior, who has given her strength, hope, and joy on her journey. “...For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

"God began His miracle through Sarah on the day He created her. And He is not finished with His miracle through her life. We are blessed to share our family’s story as the testimony of Sarah’s journey continues to make a difference in the lives of others.

"Thank you, UGA FTK, for allowing us to share Dance Marathon with you for eleven years. What an AWESOME experience! We are blessed beyond words that our girls have grown up seeing the work, enthusiasm, dedication, heart, and love of the best college kids in Georgia! You are special. May God bless each of you as you continue on your journey."

- The Gwaltney Family