A New Life: Irma Gonzalez Mills

SAN BENITO — Irma Gonzalez Mills didn’t think she would make it to see age 60.

It has been two months since Irma received a liver transplant and on Friday, her birthday will take on a whole new meaning.

The San Benito native was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver five years ago when she was in Illinois.

Cirrhosis, a type of liver disease, runs in Irma’s family.

Her father died from the disease at the age of 54 followed by her uncle at the age of 45.

“I never thought I was going to get it,” Irma said.

Three years after the initial diagnosis, Irma’s health began to decrease rapidly.

“I didn’t think I was going to deteriorate that fast,” Irma said.

In December she was placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing as a potential liver recipient.

Her stomach began to swell and fill with fluid and at one point, six liters of the fluid had to be removed.

“We knew deep inside she was not going to make it,” her sister Gloria Gonzalez chimed in from across the living room.

Gloria became Irma’s caretaker making sure she takes all 30 of her pills during a 12-hour period.

“I cannot miss a day or else my body will reject the organ,” Irma said.

Six months later, the mother of three received a phone call letting her know she was getting a new liver.

“I feel stronger than ever,” Irma said.

Irma spent the first three weeks of her recovery at Nora’s Home, a center in Houston, with her sister.

“My sister helped me get out of bed, walked me to the restroom, bathed me,” Irma said.

A large scar runs across Irma’s stomach, with a second line running perpendicular.

“It was so deep I thought my intestines were coming out,” Irma said.

Irma remembers crying to her sister saying she didn’t think she could make it, but her sister would remind her that she was alive.

Now, Irma wants to get the word out to the people of the Valley and encourage them to become organ donors.

Irma said she met a lot of people from the Valley in Houston who were waiting for an organ transplant.

“A lot of people seem to think, ‘oh I don’t want to give away part of my body when I die,’” Irma said. “But the way I see it, it’s your spirit that leaves the body.”

According to Donate Life Texas, more than 100,000 people are awaiting an organ transplant.

Almost 80 percent of those are in need of a kidney and 13 percent of patients are waiting for a liver.

“I want to bring comfort to others through their trials of transplantation,” Irma said.

By the Numbers

• 1 organ donor can save 8 lives

• 11,000 people in Texas are waiting for a transplant

• 40 percent of those people are Hispanic

• Every 10 minutes a person is added to the transplant waiting list

Want to donate?

Visit donatetexaslive.org to learn more about organ donation