Liver transplant saves Oakland woman's life, giving her reason to advocate for more organ donations

A life-saving liver transplant has a mother from Oakland celebrating her ultimate gift and advocating for more organ donations.

Goldie Williams, 38, was given only weeks to live early this summer after she was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. Doctors say her body attacked her liver for no reason.

"I started feeling kind of sick – tired and nauseous, and it just wouldn’t go away," she said. "I just didn’t grasp it."

After waking up one morning in May with her eyes jaundiced, Williams went to the hospital and learned her liver was failing.

The normally healthy mother of three needed an emergency transplant. She was bumped up on the long waiting list.

"I was elevated on the list because I was going to die," Williams said. "That was a lot to deal with."

Doctors at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco say miraculously Williams’ donor came through just days after she was listed.

"The need is huge," transplant hepatologist Dr. Kidist Yimam said. "We have many thousands of patients who are listed for liver transplant and there is a huge shortage of organs."

Nationwide, roughly 106,000 people are on the waiting list and in need of an organ donor, according to Donor Network West.

CPMC Sutter Health said it performs an estimated 300 organ transplants a year, including 200 kidney, 60 liver, 20 heart and 20 pancreas operations.

"We all should be donors," Yimam said. "We know it will save lives like it saved Goldie’s life because she would not be alive today without a liver transplant."

Williams’ life-giving gift, a new liver, resulted in a successful surgery in June.

"They saved my life," Williams said. "To think I wouldn’t have been able to have those days with my family and to think that they would have been missing me is a lot."

Still in recovery, she’s already raising awareness about organ donations and encouraging others to sign up.

Williams has also earned a spot atop the "Donate Life" float in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

She plans to share her transplant story, continue community work, and enjoy her second chance to live.

"I’m a happy person, so I get to live my happy life with my happy family," Williams said. "I want to change the world in my little ways."

Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU