Young Latina Is a Liver Foundation ‘Champion’


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By Brian Woodman Jr.

Life has been a challenge for 14-year-old Iliana Aviles. But she has proven that she is strong, and on Sept. 22, she will be honored as a champion.

When Iliana was 10 she was diagnosed with autoimmune-hepatitis. When she first learned she had the disease, she reacted with tears.

“I started to cry because I did not know what this meant,” she said on the Connecticut division of the American Liver Foundation’s website. “It was difficult for me to get used to what activities I could not do and what I could do because I wanted to do everything.”

Her symptoms include bloody noses, weakness, tiredness, abdominal pain and yellowing in the eyes.

On Sept. 22 she will be honored as the foundation’s 2013 LIVEr Champion at its 13th annual Liver Life Walk Hartford at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

Iliana, of New Britain, Conn., will participate in the walk along with friends and family to raise awareness and funds through pledges, will be formally honored during the event an example of what people struggling with liver problems can accomplish, according to the foundation.

“My biggest challenge was going through surgery and getting used to with my new lifestyle, which I need to follow for the rest of my life,” Illiana told CTLatinoNews. She received a transplant from her aunt on April 9.

“I am only 14 years old and I take 24 pills a day in order for my body to not reject my new liver.”

“The meaning of this event for me is by sharing my story maybe I can bring hope and relief to other kids and families that might be living with liver disease and transplant surgery,” she said.

“A Liver Champion is a courageous and inspiring individual that is facing or has faced a battle with liver disease,” said Kristin Link, an event manager with the foundation, in a prepared statement. “Iliana is a shining example of an energetic, strong and brave young adult, despite the disease she has overcome.”

She said Illiana is now capable of enjoying all the activities she had been unable to perform before the transplant due to her illness, including dance class, art, sewing, student government and schools plays.

Lea Martino, a spokesperson for the organization, said 16 divisions of the foundation will be holding benefit walks across the country.

“Each does at least one walk per year,” she said. There will be a Sept. 29 walk at Commons Park in Stamford, she added.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and the walk will start at 10 a.m. Anyone interested in participating is asked to contact Kristin Link at (203) 234-2022. More information on the event can be found at