Hepatitis C is a debilitating illness that can require patients to receive liver transplants. Andy T. is a Donate Life Illinois volunteer who contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion due to his life with hemophilia. Hemophilia is a rare bleeding disorder in which one’s blood does not clot normally causing patients to need many blood transfusions.
Andy shares his inspiring story of living with hepatitis and of a life renewed through a lifesaving transplant.
I was exposed to hepatitis C during a routine dental procedure while in my late 20s. I was given a precautionary blood transfusion for this very simple medical procedure. Unfortunately, the transfusion was contaminated with hepatitis C, a disease that would ultimately threaten my life.
Hepatitis C slowly attacks the liver. My doctor once told me that I was a man “living with a ticking time bomb” inside my liver. We treated liver disease aggressively for eight years, trying a variety of treatments, including three rounds of Interferon. Each Interferon treatment lasted a full year, and all eventually were unsuccessful. At the age of 56, I was desperate for a cure.
Finally, the combination of my hemophilia and hepatitis C proved to be too much for my liver—doctors told me I needed a new liver to stay alive. My only option was a transplant. After much testing and preparation, I was placed on the transplant waiting list on Dec 24, 2009. I considered it an early Christmas present. My health continued to worsen to the point where I required emergency surgery in March 2010 due to complications from the disease.
On March 2, I was rushed into surgery. On our trip to the hospital, my wife turned to me and said, “If you ever receive a liver, I will not even cry. I am just so ready for this to all be over.” After a four-hour surgery the doctor spoke to my wife and daughter. He said he had some bad news and some good news. His bad news was that my health was in a steady decline due to the disease. The good news had two parts. The first part was that the emergency surgery was successful and had saved my life. The second part was that Gift of Hope, the organ procurement organization in Illinois, had called the hospital with news of a potential match for a donor liver. This was the best news my family ever could have received.
The medical team quickly left to evaluate and recover the donated liver. While I lay in recovery, my medical team took the most important trip of my life. After a few hours, they called and said it was a match. I was going to receive a new liver and a second chance at life!
What has this gift meant to me and my family? It is difficult to put into words. This year I will be able to walk my daughter down the aisle as she gets married to the man of her dreams. My other daughter was just nominated as the Young Teacher of the Year at her school. I am able to look forward to seeing both of them complete their master’s degrees. And, last but not least, my wife and I look forward to celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary next year.
I now have the opportunity to share my story about the “Gift of Life” through organ and tissue donation. I am thankful every day of my new life for this amazing gift. I am healthy for the first time in years and have the energy to really live life again. No longer am I tired, sluggish, chilled, confused, or generally not feeling well.
I wake up looking forward to the day and wanting to live life to the fullest. I try to find opportunities to say “thank you” to everyone and every organization involved in health care and organ donation and, especially, to the family that made the decision to save my life though organ donation. My faith is now stronger than ever, and I am committed give back to those who have given to me.
Register your decision to give life through organ and tissue donation at DonateLifeillinois.org!