At 72, my mom, Laura, defied age and was always on the go and active
until she went to sleep one night last spring and couldn't get out of bed the
next day. We learned within a few days that she had liver cancer.
Throughout the summer of 2005, the transplant team at UPMC
Presbyterian hospital kept telling her that she would make "an excellent
candidate for a transplant." She was too ill for chemotherapy to ever have
been considered, so a transplant was her only chance.
Though she was being told for months that she was "an excellent
candidate for a transplant," she was still not on the donor list and hope
was fading. There was so much confusion because we thought she was
on the list when she was being called in on little notice. She was getting
weaker and starting to have pain from the cancer. On November 2, she
was told that she was not a good candidate for a transplant and would not
be on the list after all because there were too many risks and then
something rare came up with her blood. The news was devastating. She
wanted to be put on the donor list because she would rather die from
complications of a transplant than die from cancer. She was willing to
take the chance with a transplant for the simple reason that she wanted a
chance to see her grandson grow up.
So on November 2, I was told that she was put on the list only because
she and we insisted and for no other reason. A match likely would not be
found in time is what I was told. The team did not believe she would
tolerate the surgery, and if she did, she likely would not leave the hospital.
She should enjoy the little time she had left is what I was told. So imagine
the surprise when I received a call from the transplant unit at 2:30 am on
November 4 that an organ was available and that I had 2 hours to get her
Mom received a healthy liver from a 40 year old man on her only
grandchild's 7th birthday. Prior to the transplant, we were told she could
be out of her home for up to 1 year. She would need time in Transplant
ICU, ICU, a hospital unit and then a rebah or nursing unit/home until she
was strong enough to go home. My mom was discharged from the
hospital 10 days after her transplant because she recovered as quickly as a
20 year old would. Stubborn old Italian women are like that.
The anestheologist was so visibly shaken by the surgical miracle that he
saw. He said the new liver started working immediately and that he never
saw that happen. It was as though that new liver was truly meant for her.
We were told that all the cancer was removed with the discarded old liver.
She needed no chemo, radiation or treatments of any kind and still doesn't
except for the anti rejection medications which are part of her daily
I believe I witnessed a miracle. We cannot thank the man enough who
decided to be an organ donor and the family out there who allowed their
loved one's last wishes to be honored. Mom got her new liver just in the
nick of time after being on a waiting list less than 3 days. jt
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