Craig On May 11, just three months after a life-altering liver transplant, Summer Hudish climbed Cedar Mountain. But it was on the way back to her car that she broke through a barrier.
"I was feeling pretty good, and I used to be really athletic and a big runner, so I thought I'd start to run and just stop if I felt anything," Hudish said. "I was scared, though."
She ran all the way back to her car, and though she was tired when she stopped, it was at that moment she realized she could be normal again.
Just weeks later, she participated in the Bolder Boulder, a 10K run.
It hasn't always been sunshine and running for Hudish.
She had just begun her spring semester at the University of Colorado at Boulder when a genetic disorder she had her whole life decided to rear its head.
She was admitted to Boulder Community Hospital with the diagnosis of Wilson's disease, a genetic disorder that causes toxic levels of copper to accumulate in the body.
She needed a liver transplant.
After 10 days of uncertainty and fear, she received a new liver from a 23-year-old man who had died.
Then, the real struggle began.
Hudish was on many different medications to keep her from rejecting her new liver.
"Every side effect that I could have, happened," she said. "These headaches were unfathomable. They were three migraines in one, and they had no way of treating them."
When the headaches hit, Hudish would turn off the lights in her room and have her parents guard the door to keep nurses and doctors out. Then she packed her head in ice and waited for it to be over.
"I was just so frustrated," she said. "I mean, when was this going to end?"
Despite the dark times, Hudish approached her recovery with determination and tenacity. She wanted to get her strength back, and she wanted to live a normal life and return to school in the fall.
"I just thought, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right. I'm going to be strong about it,'" she said.
She set goals for herself from the moment she woke up from her surgery. She wanted to be out of the hospital in four days. She wanted to walk out without help. And she wanted to show everyone how fast she could recover.
Her story was unique in her social world - "No other 20-year-olds have to deal with this," she said - but it also was unique in the medical world. It isn't common for anyone her age to receive a liver transplant, let alone receive the organ in 10 days.
For those reasons, the public relations department at the University of Colorado at Denver Hospital contacted Hudish to tell her story in a TV commercial.
A week ago, Hudish returned to the hospital that saved her life.
"I had to walk past my old room, and see the places I used to go for walks because I had to keep myself alive," she said. "But, it wasn't that bad. It was more like 'Oh, that happened.'"
The commercial will air in August on ABC's local network during the 11 p.m. news.
Meanwhile, Hudish, who claims to feel 100 percent back to normal, is working part-time at the Craig Daily Press and catching up on her studies. In the fall, she will return to CU where she plans to be a normal student, with a scar on her abdomen as a reminder of the pain that is almost all behind her.
"I used to care so much about what people thought," she said. "I cared about wearing the right things, saying the right things, hanging out with the right people. But now it's like I don't care. I'm just going to live life the way I want."
Though the hardest part is over, Hudish's life is forever altered. She will be on medication the rest of her life and can go into rejection at any time. But, her new liver and new lease on life has given her a fresh perspective.
"I used to freak out about things," she said. "I used to worry about what I was going to do, or if I should change my major or not. But, life is better now. My eyes are wide open."
Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793, or firstname.lastname@example.org