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She Never Let Herself Feel Like Quitting

August 12, 2023 3 min read

She Never Let Herself Feel Like Quitting

Photo courtesy National Senior Games

By Ray Glier

Yvette Matthews started moving up the list for a liver transplant in 2011 and hired a personal trainer. Matthews was 57 and she wanted to make sure she was fit because if there was any doubt she could survive the rigor of a transplant there was a possibility of being denied.

But 2011 was to get “more fit”, not just fit. Matthews, the daughter of a Division I college football player, had exercised all her life. She weighed the same as when she was in high school and was a dutiful walker and runner. Still, Yvette wanted to be sure.

The lesson is that as we get older, perhaps thinking that we are past our prime as a sex symbol, there are still many reasons to stay fit and healthy.

“I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to be healthy enough to receive a liver that I tried to put how tired I was, and how sick I felt, behind me,” said Matthews, who is 69. “It was pure fear that they were going to tell me I was not well enough to receive the transplant. There were days I could barely lift a weight, barely walk up the stairs.”

Matthews received the liver transplant in February, 2013.

In 2012, Matthews was so weak that raising her foot four inches to reach the next stair was punishing over-exertion. Her skin was jaundiced; she was retaining fluid. Folks at her church in Colorado took her car keys and drove her home after service.

Several things helped her survive. First, she lived in Parker, Colorado and Colorado, she said, is a “fitness state.” There were at least 10 gyms in the town southeast of Denver and she belonged to one and worked out two to three times a week.

When she was able Matthews did her workouts on nautilus machines. As she grew sicker from the disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease, she hired a personal trainer, and that was uplifting itself. The trainer, Tina Woods, had lost 100 pounds and became a marathon runner.

“She was so positive, every time we got together,” Matthews said. “She would say to me ‘give me one more rep, just one more, you can do it’. There were days I had little energy and she was always being positive with me.”

The Denver winters were no reason for Matthews to shuck her exercise. She couldn’t afford to. So she walked the halls at her office building and climbed stairs. When she was home, Yvette simply bundled up against the bitter cold and walked outside for at least 30 minutes a day.

“The town that I lived in had lots of walking paths, so it was easy to find places to walk,” Matthews said. “Walking is a great way to get exercise. Just put your headphones on and go out your front door.”

A year after her liver transplant, Matthews entered nine events in the World Transplant Games in Houston. She medaled in all nine events and won five. In 2022, she will compete in the National Senior Games for the second time.

“I learned that no matter how tired you are there is still a little bit of spark of energy in you, no matter how sick you feel, you can always get up,” Matthews said. “I never, ever thought about quitting. I still felt I was a young person and I never felt like quitting.”



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