Tony and Beth Lehman

Sandy Springs resident Beth Lehman is very lucky. Instead of being chained to a desk, she spent most of her career with a top national consulting firm that took her to places the rest of us only dream of visiting, including Napa, California, the country’s premier wine country, where she acquired a taste for fine wine. 

When she’d tired of the travel, she could afford to quit her consulting job and switch to a less exciting job closer to home. Eventually, seeking greater meaning in her life, she had the luxury of retiring at age 36 to devote her time to volunteer work and her beloved husband Tony. 

Her volunteer work became her full-time occupation. She served on the boards of some of the area’s most prestigious cultural non-profits and met a lot of interesting, even powerful people. Befitting her leadership role, she lived in a large brick home in an elegant neighborhood where she and Tony, a successful attorney, entertained their friends and associates at lavish parties. It was a life many people would envy.

But it was all a façade. Her love of fine wine had become an addiction. On Dec. 19, 2019, a doctor diagnosed her with cirrhosis of the liver. If she wanted to live, she would need a liver transplant. She told no one but Tony and continued to drink.

In January 2020, her good life crashed to a humiliating halt as she sat at the top of her foyer stairs immobilized by agonizing stomach pain. Below were the guests at a party she and Tony were hosting. A friend sent the guests home early. 

A trip to the emergency room confirmed her visibly swollen belly was filled with fluid, a condition called ascites – a symptom of both cirrhosis and liver cancer. It would persist as long as she kept drinking.

Two months later, the entire country shut down. She then began a struggle for survival challenged by an unending onslaught of life-threatening obstacles. To drain the fluid from her belly, she endured paracentesis, often eight liters at a time, twice weekly. Because of COVID, no one, not even Tony, could accompany her to the hospital – a loneliness she would face throughout her ordeal.

To enter the liver transplant waitlist, she went through six months of required sober counseling. Though she stopped drinking in March, the full effects of her drinking accelerated. 

In July during an exam to prep her for the transplant, she was diagnosed with another problem: liver cancer. Because the tumors were too small to be treated with radiation, she was required to wait for months for them to grow. The waiting took its toll, and she grew increasingly frail. 

When the tumors were large enough, she underwent months of radiation that attacked every part of her body. In December, a full year since she’d been told she needed a liver transplant, her family visited for what they thought would be her last Christmas. Her favorite gift was a walking stick from her grandmother.

What followed was a shattered tailbone caused by her rapidly declining health, bleeding esophageal veins and an umbilical hernia – all surgeries and procedures, all endured without Tony at her side. She and Tony called them “little fires.” Each new “fire” weakened her body and delayed her transplant. A severe brain fog called hepatic encephalopathy eventually rendered her incapable of caring for even her most basic needs. 

By February 2021, the cancer was still there but not growing. She was down to 80 pounds, and her body was “too torn up” to survive more radiation. Her life’s clock was ticking, so she and her doctors agreed to go for the transplant. 

 In April, her parents came to plan her funeral. Two hours after they left, she got the call that her life-saving transplant would occur the next day, April 19. Of course, nothing was without obstacles. She got to the hospital at 6:00 am as planned, but the plane carrying her liver was delayed by bad weather. Hours later, she was finally wheeled into the operating room. The surgery lasted 5½ hours. The transplant was successful.

Unlike many alcoholics, Beth went public about her ordeal and began to document her journey in detail on Facebook. It was a tale of caution: No one is immune from the consequences of bad decisions. Her story is detailed, honest, at times humorous and always devoid of self-pity.

On April 19, 2022, a year after the transplant. she and Tony celebrated her “rebirthday” by planting a magnolia tree in honor of her donor. The tree bloomed the very next month. 

She wouldn’t know for another year that she owed her life to the family of a 43-year-old man from North Carolina. She hopes to thank the family personally someday. 

Today, Beth devotes her volunteer time to lifesaving groups like LifeLink, Donate Life Georgia, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, the American Liver Foundation and the Donate Life Advisory Board.

She also speaks publicly about liver disease and organ donation. In November 2022, just a year and a half after her transplant, she was a speaker at the “The Liver Meeting” of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease in Washington, DC. In attendance were medical professionals from around the world, including her own doctors from Atlanta. 

This year, she is the co-chair of the second annual Liver Life Walk Atlanta on June 10 in the Meadow at Piedmont Park. A signature event of the American Liver Foundation (ALF), its goal is to bring together people affected by liver disease to raise awareness and funds while supporting one another in a festive, inspiring environment.

Beth says the 1.5-mile walk is really more of “a stroll.” Children, people in wheelchairs, dogs and strollers are all welcome. In addition to being co-chair, she’s leading a team of walkers and invites people of all ages and abilities to join her or even form their own team.

All funds raised go to the ALF. Currently in first place, Beth’s team has raised over $3,000. Anyone who raises $100 by June 10 qualifies for a free T-shirt, though particular sizes are not guaranteed. 

The cost to walk is $20. Children under 17 are free. Register online or onsite at 9:00 am. The walk is 10:00 am-12:00 pm. For details, go to

Regular contributor Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant and writes about people making a difference in our little corner of the world. If you know someone "worth knowing," email her at