PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A 7-year-old transplant recipient, who shares an organ with 1960’s heartthrob Bobby Rydell, has a message of hope. She’s launched a new project that she’s hoping will inspire others.
With bouncy curls and an infectious smile, it’s hard to believe that 7-year-old Assiah Phinisee spent the first years of life in and out of hospitals. As an infant, she suffered liver failure and received her transplant at 14 months old.
“I don’t really remember,” she says of that time.
“I went through an experience of watching my daughter die in front of me,” says Rasheena Phinisee, “it was life and death– bad skin, hair and teeth falling out.”
July 2012 brought a miracle. Assiah received her second liver transplant. Then four years old, the donor was an adult women, so Rasheena opted to allow her daughter to share the liver with another recipient who turned out to be 1960’s icon, Bobby Rydell.
“With Assiah so many amazing things have happened,” says Rasheena, “it was not a shock to me.”
Three years later, the future scientist and Disney lover is thriving.
“I am really active and I do lots of cartwheels,” she says laughing.
A chat with the vivacious second grader reveals she knows quite a bit about what a liver does and what she went through. She also knows how her body works, why she has to drink lots of water and take four different medicines each day. But during the course of her medical journey, Assiah wondered if she was the only kid in the world who had to get a new liver.
“I always wanted to write a book,” says Assiah, who loves to read.
So she wrote one about her transplant called “I am a Flower Pot in Need of a Plant.”
“I wanted to feel like I wasn’t the only person who had a liver transplant,” says Assiah.
The book tells Assiah story by explaining her illness and symptoms. It also explains how the organ donor or plant, named “Ju-Ju” helped heal Assiah.
“She was a flower pot, a vessel, and her plant saved her life,” says Rasheena.
The duo has also fashioned a puppet in Assiah’s likeness to help teach children in hospitals and schools about organ donation.
“I want them to learn what happened to them and why it happened,” says Assiah, “I don’t want them to feel like they are the only one in the world who had a transplant….that they are not alone.”
Rasheena says writing the children’s book was cathartic.
“When you live with a child with special needs your life is abnormal,” she says, “I want parents to know that there is still life after transplantation.”
For more on Assiah’s book, go to http://assiahsliverfund.org/.