Jennifer Shaw receives an autographed basketball from the Atlanta Dream Chief Operating Officer Toby Wyman at Tuesday's game at Philips Arena.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Jennifer Shaw made her way onto the court at Philips Arena on Tuesday night, a break after the first quarter of play between the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty.
Dream president Toby Wyman presented her with an autographed pink and white basketball as 9,000-plus watched from the stands.
“It was a lot of fun,” 14-year-old Jennifer said Wednesday. “It was nerve-wracking and overwhelming at the same time.”
Jennifer, a freshman at Brookwood High School, received a liver transplant on April 17. She had lived her whole life with the urea cycle disorder citrullinemia, a genetic disorder that greatly inhibits the liver’s ability to work properly, and leaves the inflicted susceptible to brain damage or death any time they get a fever or illness.
In March, geneticists advised a transplant, which would eliminate the disease.
“We started dragging our feet because we were just a little wary of a liver transplant,” her mother, Diana Shaw, said. “It seemed so extreme.”
An interaction with doctors after a relative developed liver cancer eased those fears, and Jennifer got her new liver. She now can live without fear of the most innocent of colds, and is no longer restricted to her vegetarian, low-protein diet.
“The first thing she wanted to eat (after her surgery) was chicken nuggets,” Diana Shaw said. “She had never had meat before. In the hospital she was having every kind of meat you can imagine.”
In an event organized through Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Tuesday, Atlanta Dream players had Jennifer’s name temporarily tattooed on their arms as they clinched a berth in the WNBA Finals with a win over visiting New York.
She and her family cheered on the team from seats directly behind broadcast row at Philips Arena.
“The transplant has opened up so many doors for me to do stuff I wasn’t able to do,” Jennifer said. “I’m eating new things, I don’t have to worry about getting hurt and then going to the hospital right away.”
Because of scheduling conflicts in Atlanta, the Dream will play their home Finals games at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth. Games 3 and 4 next Thursday and Sunday would afford Jennifer the chance to see her new favorite team in her own backyard.
“(Tuesday) was my first time, but I would really like to go back,” she said.