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When Bob Cole's back inexplicably began hurting two and a half years ago, he was in so much pain he found it difficult to live his life.
The Elroy, Wis. man - a U.S. Navy veteran - sought treatment at his local Veterans Administration hospital, but the doctors there quickly realized he needed a higher level of care. He came to the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, where doctors confirmed that he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver. After a two-week stay at the hospital during which doctors drained the fluid from of his abdomen, Bob returned home - but he knew he needed a liver transplant.
For the next two years, Bob returned to Madison periodically to have the fluid drained from his abdomen. Every night, before he went to sleep, he would think about his impending liver transplant and what it would mean. "It was hard to deal with," he says. "I didn't know what was going to happen to me - if I was going to live or die."
Two years after being placed on the liver transplant waiting list, he received his gift of life on Oct. 11, 2018. "When I came out of the surgery, I was wide awake and comfortable," he says. "It didn't hurt at all."
Within a day, he was walking around the hospital hallway, and as time progressed, more and more of his strength returned. While his liver transplant was performed at University Hospital, he spent most of his recovery at the Veterans Administration hospital. "The Madison VA is one of the greatest places I've ever been," he says. "They treat you well and explain everything to you."
At both hospitals, he says, every single staff member was kind and helpful. "I joke and tease a lot, and can be grumpy, but they were just wonderful," he says. "Every single person who cared for me was fantastic."
He is now returning to many of the activities he loves, including riding on his four-wheeler. He's already planning for his garden, planting seeds and anxiously awaiting spring. "He is doing fantastic," says his wife, Diane. "His color has come back and he looks healthy."
Bob even was able to push his snow blower in early 2019. "I recommend that if you have liver problems, get treatment right away," he says. "My liver transplant made me feel so much better."