Thankful to Be Here to Be Thankful


Thanksgiving is a time for family, formidable feasts, and, of course, giving thanks. For news organizations, it’s a time to break out their best heartwarming stories to remind us all we have a lot to be thankful for. Medical miracles are big on that menu, as you might guess, and a family from Spirit Lake, Iowa, took to the airwaves on KIMT-TV last week to talk turkey about what they were truly thankful for.

During last year’s holidays, the family was still coming to grips with a difficult diagnosis. What seemed like a lingering “stomach ache” sent young Pressley Cochran-Bray to the doctor in October. Doctors instead discovered an enlarged liver and sent her to Mayo Clinic, where she was diagnosed with liver cancer. “Nobody can prepare you for such a hard thing,” 14-year-old Pressley tells KIMT. Her father, Bill, adds, “We knew something was really wrong. We were hoping that it wasn’t the “C” word.” But unfortunately, his spelling was on target, and the family was told that with her type of cancer, transplant was her best hope.

Pressley’s condition typically would have ruled her out from being added to the transplant waiting list. But her doctors knew a transplant was her only shot, and that she had a shot. So they appealed to UNOS, which manages the country’s organ transplant system, on her behalf. “After a lot of consultations, and a lot of thinking, and a lot of people thinking about her to give her that kind of option, we felt … we needed to give her a chance,” Mounif El-Youssef, M.D., Mayo Clinic Transplant Center, tells KIMT.

When her doctors got the go-ahead, Pressley was put on the waiting list, and within two months, she and her family got the call. “They told us to always be on call, have your bags packed and ready, because when you get the call, you gotta go,” Pressley tells KIMT. They may not have mentioned the anxious reaction she’d have every time the phone rang after that. The surgery took place in March, and this Thanksgiving, Pressley’s recovery is going well. The Cochran-Brays have begun to think about how they’ll thank the donor family, should they get the opportunity. “She has a new liver and new opportunity at life,” says Bill. “We know there’s something really special for her in the future, so yeah, it’s miraculous.”

Tune in below for the rest of Pressley’s story below. You can share this story with others using the handy tools atop this page.