The Eleven Minute Decision - Becoming a Living Liver Donor

Written by Andrew Rose, Living Liver Donor

Andy_and_Christer_in_Recovery_after_the_Living_Liver_Transplant_OperationI am an avid social networker, almost annoyingly so if you ask my wife, and spend a lot of time on Facebook. One day in October of 2014, as I scrolled through my newsfeed I noticed a post from my friend Dianna; she was sharing a story from a former student of hers, "Christer Hiort needs a new liver — the only known cure for a disease that has slowly damaged his bile ducts. He’s been on the waiting list for seven months. Christer Hiort is the father of one of my former students and this story is about him,” wrote Dianna. Christer Hiort? I paused. The same Christer Hiort I have worked with the past several years at Ericsson needs a liver? I had no idea. While I worked for Christer on many of his projects for two of his key accounts, we weren't much more than co-workers. Outside of the office I knew very little about his life, and vice versa.

Photo: Andy and Christer recovering from the living liver transplant surgery

Eleven Minutes

After reading the article, I remembered a friend in Houston, Jason, recently received a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. I also remembered a post he had shared on Facebook about living kidney donors. I wondered… Can they remove part of a liver and transplant it into a sick person? As I Googled "living liver transplants" I discovered that not only are living liver donations a reality, but they are performed right here in Dallas at Baylor Medical Center. I looked at my Lync window (the internal chat system used where Christer and I work) and saw that Christer was online and available. I began typing, "I read the Dallas Morning News article. I had no idea you were waiting for a liver transplant."  We chatted back and forth a bit about his need and I asked if he knew about living donor surgery… and if he'd be open to such a thing. "I'll get tested or screened and if I'm a match and able to donate, you can have half of my liver," I replied. No response. Christer is typing. Still no response. Finally Christer replied, “Are you sure, Andy? That is such a big commitment. Surgery, time in the hospital, recovery time - it's not a small operation." Yes. I’m sure.

I mean, I had no idea what was involved in the matching process, and I knew it was probably a long shot, but I wanted to find out. Christer suggested I talk to my wife because it was a “pretty big commitment.” Oh. Right... Good idea. But I knew my wife and her heart. I called her into my office, told her Christer needed a liver transplant, and asked if she would support my desire to get tested. Just as I suspected, and without an ounce of hesitation, she replied, “Yes, of course I would.” I told Christer that Dione, my wife, was on board and after a short pause he said, "Wow. I am so humbled. I don't even know what to say." Eleven minutes had transpired and the journey to becoming a living liver donor had begun.

Living Donation Fit Perfectly Into My Life

I completed the online submission and health history; I was contacted by Tayana, the living liver donor coordinator at Baylor Medical Center Dallas, and learned the three basic requirements to be a liver donor: I needed to have a compatible blood type, I needed to be a healthy donor, and I needed to have the right size and form to fit to the recipient. My blood type is O positive but being O is all that mattered; with blood type O, Christer's blood type was irrelevant. I was scheduled for the labs, MRIs, and X-rays needed to make sure that me and my liver were healthy and that it would fit where it was needed. Everything came back 100% viable and all that was needed to pick a date for the surgery. So we did. Christer and I agreed that it made sense to wait until after the holiday and we scheduled the surgery for the 21st of January, 2015. All that was left to do was wait.

Through every step of this process the transplant team gives the donor the option to back out, no questions asked. I could have changed my mind right up until I was actually "under" for surgery. As the weeks passed, very little changed. We kept working, didn't announce much publicly to our co-workers, and went about life as we waited for that day. Two weeks before surgery the transplant team called. Dr. Testa was not able to perform the surgery on the scheduled date and they wanted to know if we could do it on Monday the 19th instead. "Sure. As long as everyone knows and understands that I will have run the Houston Marathon the day before," I told them. Tayana checked with Dr. Testa and his only instructions were to stay hydrated. So, on January 18th, 2015 I ran the Houston Marathon (staying hydrated), returned to Dallas, and the following day I checked into the surgical hospital at Baylor University Medical Center to undergo liver transplant surgery.

Andy_and_Christer_ready_for_the_Living_Liver_TransplantThe transplant team removed Christer's sick liver, removed the majority of the larger of the two lobes from my body, and placed the healthy, living liver into Christer. Following the surgery Dr. Testa assured us that in approximately two weeks the two halves of my liver, in our separate bodies, will have grown into two full sized livers and shortly thereafter begin functioning at full capacity. Three days later, I was released to go home where I would spend the next five weeks recovering before returning to work. The day after I left, Christer was released and headed home where he would spend the next 12 weeks recovering before returning to work.

Photo: Andy (left) and Christer (right) post-op

Life Carries On

Six months later and everything about my life is the same as it was before the transplant.  I'm running and training for a 50K ultra marathon as well as the Chicago, Dallas, and Houston Marathons. My six months labs were all normal and my liver is recovered and functioning just as it was before the transplant. Christer's recovery has been amazing and has exceeded all expectations. His labs have all been good and they've even reduced the post-op pharmaceutical regiment.

Andy_Living_Liver_Donor_and_Christr_Living_Liver_Transplant_RecipientAfter the transplant, Christer and I were interviewed by Janet St. James with WFAA and by Ivanhoe Media. In just a matter of minutes I had the opportunity to be a part of Christer’s life. In eleven minutes, he had a more certain future. Time with his first grandchild. A wedding. A graduation. And so much more. For me, that decision was easy. I am a registered organ donor and I hope that as many of my organs will be transplanted after my death, but for now... there is a piece of me living within another human being with the promise of a long and healthy life. And, if it were possible, I know for certain I would do it again. In a minute.
Photo: Andy and Christer happy and healthy!

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Meet Andrew

Andys_Wife_Carly_Patterson_Andy_Living_Liver_Donor_at_the_2015_Disco_RunAndrew is a husband and father of 3 children. He once weighed 250 pounds and had  type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. He transformed himself by eating right and exercising regularly to become a fit and healthy ultra-marathoner and cyclist, allowing him the opportunity to be a proud living liver donor. 

Photo: Dione (Andy's wife), Carly Patterson (Olympic Gold Medalist and Taylor's Gift spokesperson) and Andy at the 2015 Disco Run


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