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Giving Thanks For Life

Early Show snappy
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On The Early Show's Week of Wishes, we've discovered that some wishes are much more difficult to arrange than others. Thursday's wish is one of those.

You would hardly know it, seeing Jackie Colleran today. But five years ago, a mystery virus nearly killed her.

Colleran had suffered liver failure.

"I was in the hospital for a week, and I slipped into a coma," she says.

She was rushed to UCLA Medical Center. Doctors told her family that only a liver transplant could save her.

"She had tubes everywhere," says her husband, Jack. "It was horrible. They had to find something in the next 48 hours for her, or she wasn't going to make it."

But with so many in need of a transplant, and so few organs available, it became a race against time.

"You suddenly realize, here's all the equipment, all the medical expertise, everything you need to save a life. And you're sitting there, and you're waiting for someone else to die," says Jack Colleran.

The donor came from Texas.

"They told my family that it was a 37-year old male that had been killed in an accident," says Jack Colleran.

On Christmas Eve 1996, Jackie Colleran wrote his family a letter.

"I just wanted to tell them how sorry I was for them, and how grateful I was," says Jackie. "And that I would remember them every day of my life."

"I never dreamed she'd be this healthy. Never," says her husband.

As Jackie recovered, it wasn't long before she was back in the water, and on the slopes. She is also a tireless campaigner for organ donation and runs a weekly support group.

"You can't ever adequately thank someone for the transplant. You can try, but it's not ever going to be adequate..." she said to her support group

The fact is, Jackie Colleran has tried over and over. Five letters, but no response.

"Sometimes, the family is not comfortable with responding. I really wanted to respect my donor family, but in the back of my mind, I always wondered, did they actually ever get a letter?" she says.

It turns out, they never did.

"I wanted them to know how grateful I was. That was a blow, in a sense, that they had not known, and that it had been five years," says Jackie.

But in a twist of fate, the family tried reaching out on their own. Their letter arrived last September.

"It indicated that my donor's mother drives a school bus. They wanted to know how I was doing. They told me a little bit about my donor. His name was Wade," says Jackie.

Jackie immediately wrote back and waited...