Liver transplant

Two liver transplants restore Andy's health

Andy swinging a tennis racket in front of a backdrop with the Wisconsin Badgers' motion W logo on it.
Andy Cawley

Years ago, Andy Cawley was one of those children who never missed a day of school—he even received awards for that achievement. So, when he started becoming chronically ill in the late 1990s, he was completely mystified.

Andy learned he had both primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)—a liver disease in which the bile ducts become inflamed, scarred and eventually blocked—and Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. His liver was damaged beyond repair, and he needed a liver transplant. He and his wife, Erica, went to two different transplant centers to get him on the wait list for a new liver, including the UW Health Transplant Center in Madison.

In July 2004, Andy received his gift of life at UW Health. Though there were complications right after the procedure, and he had to return to Madison for a second surgery, Andy eventually returned to good health and was able to continue his job as an engineer in the lighting industry. “I was pleased to know I could get right back to where I was,” he said.

In the early 2020s, however, Andy became ill again. Doctors told them the PSC had returned. “It was wreaking havoc on my new liver, just like it had on my previous liver,” he said. “It was a really rough time. For over a year, I had multiple emergency room visits to drain the extra bile out of my liver.”

Andy went back on the transplant wait list and received his second gift of life in March 2022. This time, he knew exactly what to expect when he went to University Hospital for the procedure. “For me, when I was sick, there was no better place to be but in Madison,” he said. “The minute I came in the door, I knew I was in the right place.”

Much to his surprise, Andy recovered much easier from his second transplant than from his first one—he was up walking the halls the day of his surgery. He was also fortunate enough to have the same pre-transplant coordinator—Mary Douglas—and post-transplant coordinator—Erica Bouska—for both surgeries, even though they were 18 years apart.

“They’re like my lifeline,” he said. “The transplant coordinator role is so important. I wish I had people in those positions for every aspect of my life.”

Since his second transplant, Andy has once again been able to return to all the activities he loves—tennis, pickleball and golf. And over the past six months, he has enjoyed trips to London and Palm Springs, Florida.

“I had always told myself, ‘Once I get healthy, I want to go have some fun,’” he said. “And I have.”