On an otherwise normal day in October 2015, 15-year-old Hayley Illig called her mom from school in Doniphan, Missouri, crying. The whites of her eyes had turned yellow, she told her.
Less than 24 hours later, doctors at St. Louis Children’s Hospital told Hayley and her mom, Annie Barlow, that she was going into acute liver failure.
Two weeks later, Hayley was being wheeled into surgery for a liver transplant.
Hayley has Wilson’s disease, a rare disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver. These copper levels can reach a life-threatening threshold, which is what happened to Hayley. It caused her skin to turn yellow, her limbs to swell abnormally and fluid to build up in her body.
You’d never know all of this from looking at Hayley now, as she stands in her living room in Cahokia, where she and her mom moved, laughing and showing off the makeup and clothes she bought during the Los Angeles shopping spree that the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave her.
Her sister, 15-year-old Hannah, and cousin, 17-year-old Mackenzie Hamann, laughed, too, as they recalled not the scary moments of Hayley’s surgery,…