The Transplant That Saved My Life: The Importance of Live Donors
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
An important part of what we do at STAR Kids is educating and bringing awareness to transplants and organ donations. It is no secret that the transplant and organ donation journey come with many risks as well as many rewards, and in my lifetime, I have experienced both. But if it wasn’t for my live donor, there would have been way less rewards and way more risks for me, which is why I feel it is important as VP to share my story and educate on the significance of live donations and how it saved my life.
So last week, on February 25th, I celebrated the anniversary of my first (of two) liver transplant. I received my first liver in 1995 from a young boy who had unfortunately passed away. I ended up rejecting the liver completely and had no other option but to need a live donor. For nine months, I was extremely sick and although the hospital team tried everything they could to save my liver, they were unable to and I needed a new one. One that was an exact match for me, which can often be a long and hard waiting game for some transplant patients. So on November 29th of that same year, at two years old, I received the life-saving transplant from a live donor who was an exact match for me. That selfless person who gave me a second chance at life, was the same person who gave me life, my father. When we think back on his decision, he says, “I couldn’t watch you suffer anymore. I knew that at the time Dr. Dunn had only done 5 living donor surgeries, but I also knew that if I didn’t do the workup that day and volunteer, you weren’t going to make it.” Both of these liver transplants, living and deceased, are the reason that I am here today. Despite rejecting the first liver, it gave me the time that I needed to make it through onto that second transplant. And then my father’s donation of his left lobe, pulled me through.
I share this story because, although I am a strong believer that any sort of donation, living or deceased, can save the lives of so many people, I want to bring awareness to the incredible impact that being a live donor can have on a transplant patient’s life.
There are many people out there who need a live donor but are unable to receive an organ due to lack of volunteers. Statistically speaking, living donor recipients experience shorter hospital stays and are less likely to require blood transfusions as well as less likely to reject the organ. Even better, recipients of living donor livers have an average of 5% better long-term survival rate than recipients of deceased donor livers. Most people spend a long time sick until they get a call that an organ is ready. With a live donor, the recipient has a greater chance of becoming healthy again in a quicker amount of time. And since my father and I share similar DNA, I am able to take a small amount of antirejection medication, which makes me less immunosuppressed, another benefit to being a live donor recipient from my father.
Don’t get me wrong, my health has been a difficult journey and sometimes is an uphill battle, but because of my father, my live donor, I was given the chance to fight that battle and now have the ability to live a life that I love. Live donors can give someone the best gift of all, time– time spent not suffering and more time spent living a fulfilling life.