'Snow baby' doing well 20 years after life saving liver transpla - WNEM TV 5

'Snow baby' doing well 20 years after life saving liver transplant

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Michelle Schmitt Michelle Schmitt
Dave Stone Dave Stone

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – While winter snowflakes may not be a welcome sight to everyone, to Michelle Schmitt they are a reminder of how lucky she is.

"I was happy to get up this morning and see that there was snow," she said Friday.

On January 17, 1994 it was also snowing, but not just a little. Louisville woke up to more than a foot of snow, nearly two feet in some areas. It was on top of ice and temperatures would reach minus 22 degrees. The city was shut down.

Michelle was just 3 years old at the time and was battling a congenital liver disease. For more than two years her family had been waiting for a life saving liver transplant. Finally, they got the call one was available in Omaha, Nebraska. 

"They were feeling really excited, but then really scared because nobody could get out, so then it was like oh no, what should we do because she's not going to be able to get this if we can't get out our doors," said Schmitt.

Around the same time, Pastor Dave Stone bundled up his 5-year-old daughter and the two made the short walk from their home to Southeast Christian Church, when it was located on Hikes Lane. They were just wanting to get out of the house when a car stopped them.

"When we got to the parking lot, we saw a guy coming up and he said 'where are we supposed to go?' And he had a shovel," said Stone.

It turned out, one of the Schmitt's family friends called a local radio station and explained the families dire situation desperately hoping for help. Michelle had less than 12 hours to get into surgery.

"About that time people started coming from all directions, neighbors with shovels in hand and even some four wheelers started showing up and pulling in so we picked a parking lot and started clearing it," said Stone.

About 20 minutes later, a helicopter was able to land. "Then they brought Michelle out and I remember her being all bundled up and it gives me emotional thoughts just thinking back to it. It was cool," said Stone.

Michelle and her family were flown to the Louisville airport where one runway was cleared so they could board a small plane.

"We cheered as the helicopter left," said Stone.

The transplant was a success and even though the now 23-year-old can't remember details of that day, it's the stories she's heard over the years that stick.

"If it weren't for them, I definitely wouldn't be here," said Schmitt.

The same goes for 7-year-old Brian, his liver saved Michelle's life. "He means so much," said Schmitt. "I feel like I know him even though I never met him." 

"People take life for granted and I don't," said Schmitt. 

And every time it snows, to Michelle it's life changing. "It just reminded me of how lucky I am and I'm blessed to be here," said Schmitt.

Today Michelle is doing great. Back in 2011, she had to have a kidney transplant, but she is feeling good and does not anticipate any more surgeries in her future. She's currently studying to get her master's degree in social work at Spalding University. 

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