Meet 10-year old Assiah Phinisee, and her mother Rasheena. The Phinisee family has just recently joined PALCS, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to hear their inspiring story, and speak to them more about their non-profit foundation.
Assiah’s life is truly a miracle, as she went through not only one, but two liver transplants – all before the age of four!
Although Assiah was born healthy, she was exposed through breast-feeding to an antibiotic her mother was prescribed at 6 days old . She then contracted hepatitis and, eventually, serious liver problems.
She underwent her first liver transplant at the early age of one, which failed due to drug intolerance, resulting in chronic rejection. When Assiah was four years old in 2012, she received her second organ transplant.
This time, she received 25 percent of a liver, with Bobby Rydell, Philadelphia legend and rock and roll singer, receiving the other 75 percent. Sharing the same liver donor–a twenty-one-year-old from Reading, PA–has brought both Rydell and Assiah very close, as he now refers to her as his “liver sister.”
As a result of Assiah’s life changing experiences, she and her mother, Rasheena Phinisee, founded A Star Name Assiah Liver Fund, a nonprofit that works to raise awareness about organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation.
Assiah and Rasheena’s goal is to promote her healthy “Donor Lifestyle” initiative through engagement, education and empowerment.
The mom-and-daughter duo have created their own line of natural skincare products and started an Annual Liver-Aid Lemonade Fundraiser. Assiah’s Lemonade Beauty Bars are a homemade soap used to educate others about the benefit of natural skincare products that reduce health risks. Also promoting Assiah’s message, Assiah’s Liver-Aid Lemonade stand is a healthy organic lemonade used to educate consumers about the beneficial effects of lemons on the liver.
But they haven’t stopped there; Assiah and Rasheena have also published a children’s book. I Am A Flower Pot Made For A Plant is the first ever children’s transplant book that fulfills the national early childhood literacy standards for readers in Kindergarten through Second Grade.
Although their self-published book is about “a little girl’s journey to find a liver, at its core, it’s really about helping one another through suffering, whether physical or mental or emotional.” The message that Assiah wants to get across in this book is, “to teach children that they don’t have to think they are going to die if they have a transplant, that they are going to live.”
This book, along with their truly amazing story, has led the dynamic duo to be featured on networks such as FOX29, CBS3, ABC, Philadelphia Newspapers, KYW News Radio, and iHeart Urban Radio station 105.1. Assiah’s story was also shared in the 2017 New York Times Bestseller, Black Privilege, by Charlamagne ThaGod.
As a result of these initiatives, “Assiah has also landed opportunities like her 2018 19 city tour sponsored by Community Tissue Service, collaboration with 2018 Miss America candidate, Miss Indiana Darian Arch, and recognition as a National Community Leader by Essence as a 2018 Community Corner Exhibitor for the 25th Annual Essence Festival”, Rasheena explains, “and through continued community support, this year, Assiah’s campaign will reach more than 1 million people!”
Assiah and her mother, Rasheena, are not only making a difference, they are also reshaping how society thinks about organ and tissue donation by creating lifestyle choices that continuously put organ and tissue donation on the forefront.
“Most of her short life, it’s been a whirlwind of doctors and surgeries and medication,” which is just one reason why the Phinisee family decided to make the change by switching to a cyber-charter school. “With Assiah’s ongoing healthcare needs, PALCS was the perfect choice for us as it gives her flexibility in her daily schedule,” Rasheena continues to explain.
PALCS has “helped build [Assiah’s] confidence, and lessened the pressure and steer of needing to fit in socially at school. For kids who suffer from medical trauma, it can be challenging to balance both health/body image and socialization,” according to Rasheena.
Advancements in organ donation are important to Rasheena and her family because, “we, like other families, would like to see our child overcome chronic illness to live a long healthy life or at the very least have a quality of life worth living. By educating the community about organ donation and transplantation we increase the chances of saving lives and recovering funds that will go toward ground breaking research that could provide more treatment options to patients in organ failure.”
Thank you so much, Rasheena, for taking the time to answer our questions and share your and Assiah’s story with us. We truly appreciate it, and are thrilled that you are a part the PALCS Community! We are so incredibly proud of you both for everything you have accomplished so far, and keep up the amazing work!