BARSTOW - She goes by the nickname "Ryis," which means "shadow" in the made-up language of Illdian, which is spoken on the made-up fantasy world she has crafted.

At 13, Brittany Brown was the subject of stories about a rare medical condition that caused her to undergo a dual organ transplant after her kidneys and liver failed. Now at 18, she's hoping to write her own stories.

"Every once in a while I have a sharp pain in my back and side," Brown said about her recovery. She takes seven different medications a day to keep her body from rejecting her new organs and will do so for the rest of her life. She has to monitor her blood sugar levels as well.

But those are just the adjustments Brown has made to live a normal life. She went on to graduate high school and is now a student at Barstow Community College. She has a boyfriend - of "three months and two-and-a-half weeks" she calculates. She has her own MySpace page. She hangs out with a group of friends at the college. She writes and draws within the fantasy genre and enjoys anime.

Brittany just turned 18 in November and has since moved out of the house where she had been living and is now staying with her aunt, Kristy Skjerve.

"I don't like being tied down anymore," Brown said.

Skjerve doesn't mind her new tenant, who sleeps on the couch.

"We've always been there for Brittany," Skjerve said. Following Brittany's experience, everybody in the family became organ donors, she added.

Brown was born with a rare disease called Primary Hyperoxaluria that caused her liver to stop producing a particular enzyme that helped break down certain substances within her body. As a result, these substances built up inside her body, irreparably damaging both her kidneys and liver.

Brown needed both a new kidney and a liver to recover from the damage. She got the necessary transplant in 2003 when a boy in Los Angeles was killed in a car crash. Brown had wanted to meet the family of the boy responsible for keeping her alive, but the family declined.
"The family didn't want to talk to us, and I wanted to respect that and didn't bug them anymore," she said.

But according to Karen Brown, Brittany's mother, the family does make an effort to remember him every year. Every August 21, the anniversary of the transplant surgery, the family inflates three balloons, one pink, one blue, and one red. On the pink balloon, they write Brittany's name. On the blue balloon, they write "Braveheart," their nickname for the boy whose kidney and liver now functions inside Brittany. On the red balloon they write "organ donors." They then release the balloons outdoors.

When the Desert Dispatch originally reported Brittany's situation, she said the family got a lot of emotional and financial support from people in the community, an outpouring she still recalls. According to Karen Brown, the family received various types of assistance from everyone from California Edison, Hamilton Realty, First Baptist Church, Barstow Junior High School, Barstow High School and other local groups and individuals.

"We couldn't have done it without everybody's help," Karen Brown said.

In the end, Brittany has to muse for a little bit about what she took away from her painful experience.

"Just be grateful for what you have," she said. "Love everybody you have in your life, because things change and you never know what's going to happen."

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4104 or