Liver transplant

Complications during eye surgery led to Dee Dee's liver transplant

Woman smiling at the camera with arms crossed and surrounded by colorful chairs on a terrace.

It was only by chance that Dee Dee Crowley found out she had liver disease.

The Waunakee, Wisconsin, woman was supposed to undergo eye surgery, but the doctor had to stop the procedure because she was bleeding so much. He referred her to a hematologist, who ran several tests and learned something was wrong with her liver, and then a gastroenterologist diagnosed her with fatty liver disease.

“I didn’t feel well, but that just became the norm for me,” said Dee Dee. “As I went through the next year, my doctors recommended I refrain from alcohol, adopt a low-fat and high-protein diet, and avoid sugar as much as possible. I still got sicker and sicker.”

After multiple hospital stays in summer and early fall 2022, Dee Dee became delirious and confused, which was when her husband, Erin, decided to take her to the emergency room. “It was almost like I was in a bubble,” she said. “I was in the hospital for most of the fall.”

Dee Dee was sick enough that her medical team referred her to the UW Health Liver Transplant Program. There, transplant hepatologist John Rice, MD, told her that her liver function was poor enough that she only had a 50% chance of survival over the next six months.

After that initial appointment, she was placed on the liver transplant wait list and stayed in her hospital room as she waited for the gift of life.

Dee Dee received her liver transplant on Dec. 4, 2022. “The doctors and nurses were amazing,” she said. “If you think about where I was and where I am now, they’re miracle workers.”

Her first month after the surgery was difficult, but by February 2023, Dee Dee was back to her job working in information technology for SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital.

“I didn’t realize how sick I was for so long until now,” she said. “I feel like a totally different person. My immune system is suppressed, but I’ve been able to go back to a normal life. I got to see my daughter graduate high school, and I didn’t think I would be able to do that.”