Chris Birozes was no different from your typical college athlete.
The starting punter for Wingate University’s football team, the finance major — a Suwanee native — was on track to finish school in four years.
He had good friends, was in good shape and his health, overall, seemed normal.
That changed one Sunday at football practice after he noticed his legs “felt off.” Within hours, after taking off his socks, he saw his ankles were swollen.
The swelling progressed to the point where Birozes could no longer cross his legs, and that’s when he realized he needed to go to the emergency room.
For nearly two hours, he underwent blood test after blood test.
If you go
What: “Angels of Life” hair and fashion show benefitting the Georgia Transplant Foundation
Where: Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
When: Sunday, Oct. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Cost: General admission: $79; Halo VIP: $113; Cherub VIP package: $313
Finally, the doctors told him his liver and kidney functions were abnormal, to the point of liver failure.
He returned home and was admitted to Piedmont hospital, where he was found to have too much copper in his body.
Less than two weeks later, Birozes had been diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease, a rare inherited disorder that causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs.
Most people with Wilson’s disease are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 35; Birozes was 19.
After being placed on medications to flush the copper out of his system, Birozes chose to finish his first semester of sophomore year from home, and within three months of his initial liver failure diagnosis, he’d made it to the top of the hospital’s transplant list.
One day while at work, Birozes got a call — there was a new liver for him.
Four days after surgery, he went home, though the road wasn’t an easy one.
Ten-and-a-half weeks later — some of which “felt like years” — he ventured out for the first time, and in the fall of 2016 returned to Wingate to finish his school career, now as a pre-med major.
“The transplant is the best thing that happened to me,” he said.
On Sunday, Birozes will share his story at the Three-13 Salon, Spa and Boutique’s “Angels of Life” hair and fashion show, which benefits the Georgia Transplant Foundation.
Now in its seventh year, the event has raised more than $300,000 since its establishment in 2011 by the salon’s managing partner, Lester Crowell, who was inspired by his own transplant experiences.
At the show, both organ recipients and donors will speak throughout an evening of cocktails, dancing, music, a fashion show and both a live and silent auction.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and tickets can be purchased at three-13.com/angels/.