SOLANA BEACH, Calif. – Nick Wallace looks like your average 13 year-old. More important, he finally feels like an average 13 -year-old.
“I’m a normal person now and living a normal life,” Wallace said.
When we first met Wallace last February, he showed us his love of music and of lacrosse.
He also told us he needed a new liver due to Biliary Atresia, a disease which blocks the bile ducts and causes liver failure.
Wallace sat at the top of the transplant list for eight months, and after a couple of false starts, finally received a new liver on September 28th, 2012.
“I was overjoyed,” Wallace said. “Right when my mom told me I was going to get a new liver I started imagining the life I had in front of me. Lacrosse, forever.”
The idea of playing lacrosse again motivated Wallace through 11 hours of surgery and when he awoke, “I said boo-yah,” Wallace said. “Because I succeeded in life, at least my destiny as I know it.”
The chance to play lacrosse again also kept Wallace positive through several weeks of recovery in the hospital including another surgery as his body, at first, rejected the new liver.
But with continued medication his body has started to accept the organ that he says came from a 16 year-old girl who died in a car crash.
“It’s helped me get in touch with my feminine side,” Wallace said. “So I’m pretty thankful for that, honestly.”
As you can probably tell, Wallace has a sense of humor and cheery disposition that endears him to everyone, including the lacrosse community who supported him – from the San Diego State team that made him an honorary captain, to his current youth team, R-C Carolina, that kept him on the roster while he recovered.
Although Wallace has not yet returned to school, he did re-join his lacrosse team for practice in mid-January.
“I think all the kids look up to Nick, honestly,” said RC Carolina coach Dave O’Neil. “They take it as it’s a privilege to be out here and play this game. They see one of their friends, who hasn’t been able to play all season, a kid who loves the game so much.”
“I don’t know if I have the strength to go through something like he did,” said Wallace’s friend and teammate Ethan Deller. “It’s really amazing what he did and the inner-character and strength that it takes.”
“I’m really proud of him,” said Wallace’s sister Lexie. “After getting his liver transplant, he comes out (to the field) and acts like nothing happened. Like he’s doing the sprints and I’m really proud of him.”
Despite fighting a disease his whole life, Wallace considers himself lucky because he received a transplant. So he wants to help others.
He has led the San Diego Liver Life Walk every year of his life, growing it from 50 people to more than 2,000. He started a program called Nick’s Picks, to provide hospitalized kids with backpacks full of toys and games to help them pass the time.
And, he wrote a letter to president Obama.
“I have an idea for organ donation that would save many, many lives,” Wallace said as he read part of the letter. “It works in several countries already.”
Instead of people choosing to become an organ donor, Wallace would like Americans to be organ donors by default.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if (President Obama) didn’t answer it because he is the big cheese and a lot of stuff to be doing,” Wallace said. “But I would be so thankful if he did answer it because I really want to change things.”
Whether he knows it, or not, Wallace has changed the lives of almost everyone he meets. Either with his determination, his smile and cheery disposition, or with the money he has raised to fight liver disease.
“I’m thankful for life, basically,” he said.