Liver transplant

Liver transplant gives Todd a second chance at life

A man wearing a jacket and smiling.

When Todd Olsen thinks back to the events surrounding his liver transplant at the UW Health Transplant Center, he can’t help being grateful that all the stars aligned to give him a second chance at life.

First, there was his primary care provider and, later, a physician’s assistant, who were particularly diligent about ordering several blood and imaging tests to check his health. It turned out he had stage 4 cirrhosis, so his provider began monitoring his condition.

Then, in December 2021, Todd’s caregivers found a cancerous tumor in his liver. They removed it, but a month later, another one showed up. His physician’s assistant told him the cancer would likely keep coming back unless he had a transplant, so she sent him to the UW Health Transplant Center.

Todd went through the required testing, was approved for liver transplant, and placed on the wait list. “There are a lot of people who have liver transplants who are in very dire situations,” he said. “I wasn’t in a dire situation.”

Still, he knew it was serious—he had liver cancer, and the only way to cure it was to get a liver transplant. “When they told me I would have to get a transplant, I thought, I have to get my will taken care of,” he said. “There are a lot of things I have to think about.”

About seven months after he got on the wait list, Todd received the gift of life with a new liver in November 2022. He especially appreciated all the support he got from the people who cared for him at University Hospital and those on his transplant team, particularly his coordinators. “Everybody was great,” he said. “There are a lot of people there who are really good at being cognizant of your feelings and situation. There were times in the hospital when I was going through stuff, and they really helped me.”

After he returned home, he even sent a fruit basket to the staff members on the transplant floor at the hospital.

Two months after the transplant, Todd returned to his job as a medical support assistant at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, and to his side business, sports photography. About a year later, he sent a letter to the family of his donor, thanking them for their gift.

He continues to feel gratitude for his gift of life and how much his health has improved.