Liver Transplant: David's Story
David (pictured) underwent a liver transplant at UW Hospital in 2007.
About three years ago I was suffering from Crohn's disease. I was receiving treatment, but my liver counts were going way up, so I went to a liver specialist right away. That doctor told me there was no help for me because my liver was so bad. He sent me home and told me to eat and drink anything I wanted, and gave me two to five years to live.
In the meantime my supplemental insurance man called me and wanted me to change to a different insurance company because my premium was increasing. I told him I could not change because I had a liver disease and only a few years to live. He told me to go to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison for a second opinion, saying that they would help me.
I made an appointment with a liver specialist, Dr. Wiley, in October. Dr. Wiley told me I had come to the right place and that he could help me. He told me I had jaundice, and he did blood work and then told me I had to be admitted to the hospital that same day for at least five days. They did all kinds of tests and X-rays.
They asked me if I wanted to live and I said "Yes!" I was 72 years old and because of my age they wanted to make sure I had the desire to live.
They told me I needed a liver transplant and that it was not a simple surgery. I would be in the hospital for a month. Dr. Musat was my liver doctor and we met with Dr. Foley, a transplant surgeon. He reiterated that this is a very serious surgery, especially at my age, but he took into consideration the fact that I was an active farmer with a lot of strength and in good shape, therefore I had a very good chance of doing well after a liver transplant. Dr. Foley told me it would be a 12-hour surgery. He also told me that if I did not have the surgery I would have about a year to live.
On the November 8 at 11am the hospital called me to tell me I was put on the transplant list. This meant I could be called at any time and that I needed to have my bag packed and be ready to get to the hospital when I was called. That very same day at 5pm the phone rang, and my wife Elmira answered. Amazingly enough, it was the hospital calling and they wanted to talk to me. They asked if I was ready for my new liver, they had one for me, and of course I said “Yes!” They told me I should be there in three to four hours.
A miracle happened for me that day. My wife and I drove to the hospital with some family members and got there about 7:30pm. I was checked in and warned that this could be a "dry run" and that I could be sent home again. Our pastor came to the hospital at about 10:30pm to stay with me. We were there all night and finally at 10:30am the next day they told me the liver had arrived at the hospital and they took me to the operating room. At 11:30am I went into surgery. We had a prayer together with pastor, my wife and family kissed me and wished me good luck, saying that they'd "see me later." My family stayed in the waiting room where they were kept up-to-date on how my surgery was going. Twelve hours later at 11:30pm Dr. Foley came out to tell my family and pastor that the surgery went well.
I was in intensive care the next day when my wife came to see me and she was told I was doing quite well. The following day my wife came back with her sister to visit me in the intensive care unit but I had already been moved to a regular room. What a pleasant surprise for them! I had most of the tubes removed and the nurses told her I was a trooper in intensive care unit and I was doing very well.
In ten days they were ready to send me home. I was feeling great. Before I went home the doctors wanted to remove a stent because the main liver count was not going down like they wanted. It was at this point when I hit a "bump in the road," as they had warned me might happen. The morning after the stent procedure I was bleeding and needed five pints of blood and two units of plasma. I had a bleeding ulcer, which set me back another ten days. I was released on December 3 with lots of medication.
I became a diabetic because of all the medications I was required to take. The diabetes required me to be on a special diet and to take insulin until March at which time I was no longer considered a diabetic. My loving wife stayed home from work for three months to take care of me. She made sure I took the right medication at the right time. It meant a lot to me for her to take such good care of me.
I correspond with Jamie, my transplant coordinator, at UW Hospital. She is an excellent transplant coordinator. I don't know what I would have done without her. She has helped me a lot, answering all my questions and advising me on what to do and what not to do. She initially helped me get my medications in order and still helps me when I need her.
Dr. Musat, Dr. Foley, Dr. Goodman, Dr. Nicole and Jamie are all members of an excellent staff. I recommend all of them to anyone that is in need of a liver transplant. I must also include all the nurses and staff at the UW Hospital, as they were all wonderful. I recommend University of Wisconsin Hospital to anyone who needs a transplant.
It is now nine months since my transplant and I could not feel any better. I have so much energy and strength. My weight had been down to 140 pounds and I am now a healthy 180 pounds. I work on my farm with my daughter Jackie and do so much more this year than I could last year at this time.
Everyone I see and talk to cannot believe how good I look. Someone even told me I look like a million dollars! I had so many prayers said for me by all the churches in the area and by my family, friends and neighbors but the good Lord above did it all. If it weren't for him and the doctors, I would not be here today to write this letter. I had a miracle happen to me by getting me on the transplant list and having a liver match for me that very same day. I send a great big thank you to my donor, and I count my blessings every day for the new life that I am blessed with.