Tyrone Senior Receives Life Saving Liver Transplant at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh

Tyrone senior Sharon Salyer is an inspiration to her friends and family


Ask anyone who knows Tyrone High School senior Sharon Salyer to describe her and it won’t take long to hear these words: caring, kindhearted, courageous, and most of all, a fighter.

Since August 2015 Salyer’s health has been deteriorating due to a rare genetic disorder called Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC). OTC occurs in approximately one in every 80,000 people and causes ammonia, which is formed when proteins are broken down in the body, to accumulate in her blood. The nervous system is especially sensitive to the effects of excess ammonia, which can cause swelling in her brain and lead to brain damage, coma or death.

“Sharon’s liver does not process protein correctly,” said high school nurse Mrs. Julie Patton, “so ammonia builds up in her bloodstream and acts as a toxin. As a result, she has seizures and loses consciousness. This has happened at least a dozen times just at school.”

Sharon never makes excuses as to why she cannot achieve something, she just keeps trying her absolute best and succeeding at what she puts her mind to”

— Mrs. Tiffany Johannides

Over the past year, Salyer has been rushed to the hospital at least 30 times, including nine life-flights to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. By January her condition had worsened to the point that she was in need of a new liver and she was placed on the liver transplant list.

Through it all, Salyer has maintained an unbelievably positive attitude that’s been an inspiration to everyone in her life.

“Her attendance and grades are amazing considering what she has been through,” said high school guidance counselor Tiffany Johannides, “Sharon never makes excuses as to why she cannot achieve something, she just keeps trying her absolute best and succeeding at what she puts her mind to.”

“Sharon would be in the hospital in Pittsburgh until nine or ten o’clock at night because of a seizure and still be at school the next day,” said Patton.

“It is my hope that her ability to push through a very difficult ordeal will inspire other student to also rise above tough times and continue to put themselves and their education first,” said Johannides, “I have so much admiration and respect for Sharon, I cannot say enough positive things about her.”

Prayers Answered

On Thursday, March 10 the family got the call that a donor had been located. At 1:30 a.m. on Friday Sharon began pre-op and after approximately 10 hours of surgery she emerged with a new liver and a new lease on life.

“I was scared and I wasn’t expecting this to happen so soon,” said Salyer, “through my surgery, I tried to put on a happy face. I was shocked I was out so quickly.”

“There’s no more worrying if I’m going to die and no more anxiety. My mom told me one thing,” said Salyer, “God didn’t bring me here to die, he brought me here to start a new life.”

“The opportunity to have this new liver means an entirely new life for Sharon and the rest of the family,” said Sharon’s step mother Lisa Hale, “it’s a relief to know that she will not suffer anymore hyper-anemic attacks, which were always a life threatening emergency.”

“In my 20 years, this is the first transplant situation I’ve ever been involved in,” said Tyrone High School nurse Julie Patton.

Sharon’s road to recovery will be long but so far she is doing well.

“This first week of recovery is all about eliminating each of the life support lines and the start of fine tuning the life long medicine that will help her body accept her new liver,” said Hale.

Salyer will stay in Pittsburgh for at least eight more weeks as doctors monitor her progress and make sure that her body does not reject the new liver. Her family will move into the Pittsburgh Ronald McDonald House this week. She will also need another surgery in three to six months to close the muscle after her body stops swelling and accepts the liver.

Community Support

The cost to the family in medical bills, lost wages and the expense of staying in Pittsburgh will be great and the family will need financial help.

“We ask everyone to please attend the different benefits that are being held in her name” said Hale, “although the transplant has taken place there are still many trips to be made and a second surgery to close the muscle over the liver.”

To help raise money, the family is working through an organization called the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA),  a national charity that helps organize and guide communities to raise funds for transplant-related expenses.   Anyone wishing to donate to the Salyer family can do so by clicking the image above or this link to Sharon’s COTA page.

“Our goal is to help raise some funds because there’s a lot of expenses for the family,” said Patton, “from going back and forth to Pittsburgh, meals, and of course the transplant itself with medications. The Ronald McDonald House is economical but it’s not free so the family needs financial assistance.”

COTA is helping to organize a concert and dance tentatively planned for April 9 at the Tipton Fire Hall. Another dance with raffle prizes is being planned in Tyrone.

“We also hope to get donation cans at all three schools,” said Patton, “she’s been pretty tough. She’s an awfully sweet girl and does the best she can to keep up with her school work.”

Some of Sharon’s close friends have already reached out and are doing what they can to help.

There’s no more worrying if I’m going to die and no more anxiety. My mom told me one thing, God didn’t bring me here to die, he brought me here to start a new life”

— Sharon Salyer

“I made her a care package containing coloring books, movies, makeup, candy, and other things to comfort her and keep her busy,” said Tyrone sophomore McKenzie Johnson. “I was able to see her this past Sunday and she was so surprised. I just wanted her to know there’s still people watching over her and she doesn’t need to feel lonely at the hospital. She’s very strong and is always really supportive and positive, and thankfully doing very well.”

“Our emotions are joyful each day after each doctor visits the room and reinforces how great Sharon is doing,” said Hale.

“I will be proud and ecstatic to see her walk across the TAHS stage on graduation night,” said Johannides, “she deserves to be recognized for her hard work, determination and resolve.”

As for Sharon, her attitude hasn’t changed a bit.  “I should be home by graduation. I miss my school, friends, and my family,” said Salyer.  “I just want to be healed up. I’m a Salyer, that’s why I’m a fighter. My brothers and sisters say we are able to fight through every battle.”