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During the worst moments of his liver disease, Ram Venkatesh Rengasamy thought he would never be able to work again.
His wife was driving him to the hospital every other day so the doctors could drain the fluid from his stomach, and he had a difficult time eating or even sitting.
Then, a call came in the middle of the night. A donor liver had become available, and if Ram Venkatesh and his wife, Bala Venkatesh, left for University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, right away, he could get another chance at life with a new liver.
Ram Venkatesh and Bala didn’t hesitate. “I told my wife, ‘I’m going to trust the whole system, and I’m not going to ask many questions,’” Ram Venkatesh said. “Within 15 minutes we were in the car, and four hours later we were at the hospital.”
Ram Venkatesh received his gift of life on July 1, 2023. Miraculously, that fall, he returned to his job as a manager for a global informational technology team. “It’s just an amazing and remarkable recovery,” Bala Venkatesh said.
The right liver at the right time
Ram Venkatesh’s health problems started in 2020 with a swollen leg. It took him more than a year of doctor’s appointments to finally receive a diagnosis of decompensated cirrhosis—when liver function decreases, and a person may be approaching end-stage liver disease. His doctors were able to manage his symptoms with medication for a while, but eventually, in August 2022, an infection left him severely jaundiced and nearly out of options.
He started the process of trying to get on the wait list for a new liver at a hospital near his home in Minnesota. But Ram Venkatesh’s hepatologist had told him it was common for people to get on the wait list at more than one hospital, so he also came to UW Health in Madison.
“As soon as you enter the UW Health campus, you see the transplant clinic,” said Bala Venkatesh. “That says something about what the focus is there.”
Once Ram Venkatesh started his evaluation at UW Health, the process went quickly. Just five weeks after undergoing evaluation, Ram Venkatesh received his transplant. He didn’t even have enough time to get on the wait list at the other hospital. “We had to send a note to them saying I already got the transplant,” Ram Venkatesh said.
Both Ram Venkatesh and Bala Venkatesh consider themselves incredibly lucky that Ram Venkatesh received the right kind of liver at the right time. “If this would have gone on for another few months,” Bala Venkatesh said, “he would have been weaker, and he wouldn’t have been able to undergo the surgery.”
Now, Ram Venkatesh says, he is back to himself again—maybe a bit more tired, but he’s grateful for the second chance at life. “I want to thank the staff at UW Health,” he said. “We didn’t know how great of a program it is in Madison—but now we do.”