Liver Transplant 10 Days After Heart Surgery Video Transcript

Tom Slattery had his first heart attack at 35, and in 2001 was facing liver failure. He needed both heart bypass and liver transplant surgeries, and came to UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, looking for a chance at life.


UW Health Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Care cardiothoracic surgeon Lucian Lozonchi, MD, performed the heart bypass. A mere 10 days later, Tom was back on the operating table for his liver transplant, with transplant surgeon Joshua Mezrich, MD.


Video Transcript


Watch Tom's video, or read the transcript below:


>> Tom Slattery is living proof of a man with a will to live and caregivers that were willing to give him that chance. Tom's health problems began at age 35 when he had his first heart attack. Several years later in 2001, he was diagnosed with cholangitis, a rare disease that eventually leads to liver failure.


>> And they said, I would have 5 years that I'd be in good health and then after they didn't know. And that's exactly what happened. We just didn't look into more like we should have.


>> Tom got progressively worse and by 2011, he knew he was in trouble.


>> My wife and the family all got together and decided to get to Madison. And they transported me down in ambulance and then when I got there, one of the things the UW said why did you wait so long?


>> Tom was told he'd need 2 major surgeries.


>> I needed a liver transplant but they had to do the heart bypass surgery first. Then they said it was very, very risky. They weren't going to do it. I had 3 weeks to live and basically that was my only other option. The whole night I just laid there thinking about this. And that's when they came in the next morning and that's when I got really upset and said we've got to do this. I want to live. And that's when they decided they would do it if they could find a surgeon.


>> Tom's risk of dying was 70 percent.


>> Dr. Lucian Lozonschi, a cardiothoracic surgeon, at UW Hospital was willing to try and beat the odds with Tom.


>> A usual risk that every day surgery that we do is 1 to 2 percent, 3 percent the most. There's nothing to replace the function of the liver and for that reason, if the liver shuts down and his liver was marginal, with any intervention that would mean death for him. And we have a saying with surgeons that patients like him at this stage would not tolerate a haircut.


>> And I said I don't care what the risks are, I want the surgery, a chance at life.


>> You know his determination and family made me choose to take this high risk and operate on him.


>> I was confident in Dr. Lozonschi. I was confident that he would make it. I had no choice.


>> The surgery went well. We were very careful. We took all the precautions.


>> After my heart surgery, within 24 hours, I was walking. I got up and walked around. And I remember telling Cindy, I said well this ain't so bad. Walking -- you know but then each day, I just -- you could just tell life was going out. It was -- I was getting weaker and weaker. My liver was completely failing. I was starting to bleed out.


>> Just 10 days later, Tom's second major surgery, a liver transplant performed by Dr. Joshua Mezrich.


>> The idea of taking on 2 of the biggest surgeries you can do in one patient in a 2 week period is definitely pushing the limits. And the reality is it takes a lot of preparation of expertise, of buy in by the patient and the patient's family to support that. And I think we've gained a level of comfort because of the cases we've taken on that's allowed us to do this. But I still think to this day there are a lot of centers that might not want to do this.


>> They worked as a team. [Music] And they were willing to take risks to get good results. I'll never forget that.


>> Tom spent the next 5 months in the hospital. His recovery was aided by his family and his sheer will to get better.


>> What's that? A raccoon.


>> Yeah.

>> Yeah.


>> Look at that.


>> It's the summer of 2013. Tom is living what he calls a normal life.


>> Yeah.


>> Playing with his grandkids, walking his daughter down the wedding aisle.


>> I feel wonderful really. I just feel so privileged to be alive. Just I just love it.

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