South Florida woman donates part of liver to stranger in need

She’s a sergeant in the Army Reserves, a nurse, a mother of two, and for at least one person out there in the world, she also has another title — lifesaver.
Valerie Salnave is a warrior by all means. When she’s not working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic or at Baptist Hospital’s Miami Cancer Institute, she’s off working as a sergeant in the Army Reserve.
“As a soldier and as a nurse, the two things that they have in common is that we take care of others,” she said.
A conversation with one of her patients turned into a life-changing moment for Salnave.
She learned her patient, who eventually became a friend, needed a liver transplant, but needed to find a donor of her own.
That’s when Salnave learned about the Living Donor Program.
“If I was a match, I had no problems donating to her,” Salnave said. “A week later, found out that I was not the best match for her, but there was another person who needed a liver that I was a better match for, and their donor was a match for my friend, so we decided to do a swap.”
For personal reasons, Salnave’s friend backed out, and although she didn’t have to, Salnave decided to move forward with her part of the plan.
“I told my nurse coordinator in Pittsburg that I still wanted to continue,” she said. “She was very surprised. She says it was a first for them, so now I became an altruistic donor, since I was no longer part of the swap.”
The surgery was a success and with Salnave back at home, she said she has a lot to be thankful for.
“Honestly, I feel like I’ve gained a lot, you know, aside from losing 60% of my liver, I’ve gained so much more from this experience,” she said.
She also got a lot of support from her coworkers.
“The support from the Miami Cancer Institute has been tremendous,” she said. “My coworkers have all come together and donated their vacation time to me so I could have the time to recuperate.”
She said whether she’s working in the hospital or the army, she takes away one thing from both — selfless service.
“I like to think that if this was ever me or one of my loved ones in this situation that somebody would come forward and do the same,” she said.
Although Salnave is not in touch with the person she donated to, she’s happy to report that person is doing well.

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