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For many people who eventually receive a liver transplant, some of the most common symptoms include extreme bloating and fatigue. Michael Bishop experienced those signs, but he also suffered from another problem that greatly worried his family—confusion. In one of his worst moments, his wife Valerie found him at 5 a.m. one morning in his closet, inexplicably trying to open a travel bottle of Listerine.
Michael, who lives in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, was sick. He needed help. Ultimately, it came from the Veterans Administration—first in Rhinelander; then in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and finally at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
His problems started in 2017, when his legs started swelling and itching, and his bathroom trips were much more frequent. Then, he experienced twitching in his hands and, within just a few weeks, lost all his muscle mass. His liver wasn’t functioning correctly, and it was feeding off all the protein he consumed.
“He looked like he had aged 30 years in three weeks,” says Valerie.
Michael, who served in the U.S. Army for three years in the mid-1970s, recovered from that particular incident with treatment, and his health stabilized for a time. He was even able to continue working the entire time at his business, Mike’s Rhinelander Glass. But his liver function was bad enough to land him a spot on the transplant list at UW Health, which is connected to the VA in Madison (the other VA facilities in Wisconsin and Iron Mountain are not VA-certified liver transplant centers). In April 2019, Michael received the gift of life with a new liver.
“My care was extraordinary,” he says. “Everyone treated me with respect.”
Despite the fact that he needed a hernia repair surgery just a week after his transplant surgery, Michael has recovered remarkably well. He still works full time, and he and Valerie like to go on road trips around the Midwest. In fact, a couple months after Michael’s transplant, they went on a weekend getaway.
“I have really good days,” Michael says. “I mow my own grass with a push mower and I walk every day to the park. I feel so much better now. I’m so grateful to all those who took care of me, and to my donor. Their life lives on with me.”