Thrive by IU Health

November 09, 2021

Transplant patient once sang on cruise ships; now focused on family life

IU Health University Hospital

Transplant patient once sang on cruise ships; now focused on family life

She fought depression and life-threatening sickness. Now this patient is recovering from a liver transplant.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Just one day after receiving a new liver, Jana Babb was sitting in a chair and walking the hallway of IU Health University Hospital.

“She looked better 12 hours after surgery than I’ve seen her in a long time,” said her husband of 18 years, Monte Babb. “She has such a big personality - loud and fun – but for so long she’s been sick.”

The mother to three children, Babb says her health began to decline after both her parents died within six months of each other. That was nine years ago.

“I have always battled depression and I began to drink more,” said Babb. She said she was diagnosed with a blood disorder that was caused by alcoholic cirrhosis. Last year she was down to 85 pounds and was so ill she couldn’t maintain her job as a fork truck driver with Chrysler. She faced rehab alone as the world shut down because of a pandemic.

“I haven’t had a drink in a year but I was honest with my doctor. It was killing me and I felt guilty,” said Babb. “My doctor pointed out how common it is for people to battle alcoholism and that it doesn’t matter how much you drink or what size you are. Some people are going to get sick and some people aren’t. I was one who got sick, very sick,” she said.

Her husband thinks that it was about 18 months that Babb was too ill to enjoy every day living. He said it was something unusual for a woman who typically lives life to the fullest.

As a student at Marian High School, Babb was active in the prestigious 26th Street Singers, one of the first high school show choirs in the nation. The swing choir has captured the Bishop Luers Swing Choir Invitational title more than once. Babb also performed with civic theater troupes in such productions as “Godspell,” and “Up the Down Staircase.” After high school she attended Ball State University pursuing a major in journalism. She spent her summers performing at amusement parks in Allentown, Pa. and Rust Baden, Germany.

Babb acquired a love for travel early in her life. After college she worked as a singer and dancer aboard cruise ships.

“Since my sickness I really just wanted to get my life back. I was determined to get better,” said Babb, who is a patient of IU Health’s Dr. Marco Lacerda. On October 20th she underwent liver transplant surgery in the care of Dr. Chandrashekhar Kubal.

In addition to walking the hallways, the day after surgery she ate a chicken breast and a bowl of cottage cheese.

“That may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but for someone who has had no appetite for months, that’s huge,” said Babb. She’s anxious to get back to her Kokomo home where she enjoys trying new recipes with her husband such as a rack of lamb and Spanish Paella.

“Most of all I just want to focus on my kids and my family. That’s what’s really important to me,” said Babb.

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