30 Stories in 30 Days: Liver Transplant Creates a Bright Future

April 10, 2013
Tim and Donna Battershell

Tim and Donna Battershell

When Tim Battershell emerged from a week-long coma in August 2006, he learned that he had liver failure. “This was the beginning of a journey that was very difficult for my family and me as we waited more than a year for the call that would save my life,” Tim said.

During the next 14 months, he was in and out of the hospital for procedures to keep him alive. “Many procedures were done to help keep me alive, with the hope of eventually receiving a liver transplant. I was eventually referred to Kovler Organ Transplantation Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to be screened as a liver transplant recipient.”

In August 2007 Tim suffered a serious bowel obstruction and was flown from Carle Hospital in Champaign to Northwestern Memorial. “As I recuperated, I knew my body was struggling to keep going,” he explained. “Without a liver, I would not survive past Christmas.”

Tim prior to transplant

Tim prior to transplant

In the following months, Tim endured more hospitals, doctors and procedures. Then, at 5 a.m. on October 14, 2007, he received a call that would change his life. They had a liver for him. “I remember going into surgery at 2:30 that afternoon to receive a new liver and a second chance at life. My mind was filled with anticipation, but also with sadness, knowing that another family would be grieving the loss of their loved one.”

It has now been more than five years since his transplant, and Tim is living a full life. “I am back playing golf, taking longs walks and enjoying my family,” he said. “My wife, Donna, and I take nothing for granted. The future is bright with endless possibilities. But without my donor and his family, I would not be here today. I consider them heroes for selflessly helping someone they didn’t know.”

Tim is now an Advocates for Hope volunteer for Gift of Hope, urging others to become registered donors. “I encourage everyone to register today at GiftofHope.org,” he said.

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Illinois Donor Diary – Team Swanson

December 8, 2011

A few weeks ago, we asked Robyn Swanson to write a short blog post about her experiences with organ and tissue donation. Robyn has a unique perspective on organ donation. Her twin boys, Jake and Luke, were diagnosed with biliary atresia which caused both to need liver transplants.

The Swanson Family

Our twin boys, Luke and Jake, became the newest members of “Team Swanson” in October 2008. At birth, they were the picture of good health. But it soon became apparent that something wasn’t right when the slightly yellow, almost jaundiced appearance, associated with newborns lingered.

Just three months later, we received devastating news from the doctors at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Luke and Jake both had a rare disease called biliary atresia, a condition in which the liver’s bile ducts develop improperly. The doctors at Children’s Memorial were as shocked as my husband and me since they were unaware of a case of twins both being diagnosed with this condition.

The exact cause of biliary atresia is unknown, but experts believe that during the third trimester of pregnancy something causes the fetus’ liver to attack itself. The build-up of bile causes irreversible cirrhosis of the liver. The only cure for my boys would be liver transplants. Both were place on the national organ transplant waiting List in fall 2009. Our family’s wait for two healthy boys was under way.

Waiting for a new liver.

On August 11 of this year, after almost two years of waiting, we were blessed with a call from the transplant team at Children’s Memorial. They had amazing news—there was a match for Jake. He received his new liver on August 12 and has experienced an amazing recovery. He is a new kid, full of energy and life!

As a family, we now find ourselves in an unusual and uncomfortable place.  We are excited and relieved for Jake, but we still feel very anxious and concerned for Luke as he continues to wait for a transplant. We are hopeful for Luke and his future and anticipate the day he will be able to run, laugh and play like his brother Jake.

As a family, we often reflect back on our journey. One of the first thoughts we had when we saw Jake in recovery was that donor family was in the opposite situation that we were in. They were grieving while we were joyous for Jake and his future. My eyes fill with tears when thinking about them. They decided, in their darkest moment, to help Jake and others like him during their unspeakable tragedy. We are forever grateful to this anonymous family for their gift of life.

The Swanson boys on the way to the Bears game.

This September, our friends at Children’s Memorial and Donate Life Illinois asked Team Swanson to join them at the Bears versus Packers game at Soldier Field. Of course, we said “yes” and were excited to go.  The smiles on all of our boys’ faces that day were priceless as we walked on the field. It was an encouraging reminder of all of the wonderful memories that are yet to come—memories made possible by offering the amazing gift of life through organ and tissue donation.

The boys at Soldier Field.

Robyn Swanson

Register your decision to save lives by becoming an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org!


An Invitation to Save Lives

November 22, 2011

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Next week, our friends at Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network will start a new project to reach potential organ and tissue donors. They are “inviting” residents in Edgar, Greene and Brown counties to join the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry and help save lives through organ and tissue donation.

Over the next few weeks, residents of these counties will receive one of two direct mail pieces asking them to save lives by taking just 30 seconds to register as donors. One is designed to look like a party invitation and features Luke, a huggable young boy waiting for a liver transplant. The other looks like a thank-you card and features Drew, a cute little guy who’s now living an active life thanks to the heart transplant he received.

Gift of Hope chose Edgar, Greene and Brown counties for the direct mail campaign because of their manageable sizes and relatively low registration rates. For example, only of 47 percent of Edgar County residents have registered as donors compared with the statewide average of nearly 58 percent. We hope this direct mail campaign will help build awareness and register organ and tissue donors in each of these counties.

Here’s a look at the direct mail pieces being used for the campaign. Let us know what you think of them by leaving a message on our Facebook page. And if you’d like to see how your county’s donor registration rate compares with the statewide average, visit the interactive map posted on DonateLifeIllinois.org.

Register your decision to save lives through organ and tissue donation at DonateLifeIllinois.org!


#MorgansFeat

June 20, 2011

Morgan D’Organ, the Donate Life Illinois mascot, is traveling across America to bring the lifesaving message of organ and tissue donation to people’s front doors. He will be at fairs, festivals, sporting events, concerts, etc. If there’s an event for Morgan to promote donation and get people to register as organ and tissue donors, he will find it!

Morgan and his team of donation experts.

Throughout the summer, you can track Morgan on both Facebook and Twitter. For a complete list of events Morgan is attending, go to the Donate Life Illinois Facebook Page and click on the “Morgan’s Mission” tab.

Morgan leaving for his 2011 summer tour!

Morgan also will take over the Donate Life Illinois Twitter account (@DonateLifeIL) to share updates from the road. Check the hashtag #MorgansFeat to find updates and photos of Morgan’s expeditions. Although Morgan is sporting some pretty awesome kicks these days, the pictures won’t just be of Morgan’s toes. (We’re talking “feat” here, folks, not “feet.”) They will feature Morgan LIVE and in
action as he tries to accomplish an AMAZING FEAT!

The one and only Mini Morgan in Denver learning about organ and tissue donation.

What is this amazing feat? Morgan wants to help register 100 million Americans as organ and tissue donors by the end of 2011. Currently, more than 94 million Americans already have made the decision to give life through organ and tissue donation. Morgan wants to get 6 million more in just six months!

You can help Morgan achieve his goal by registering your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org. You also can help by fanning Donate Life Illinois on Facebook or following on Twitter.


Dan’s Second Chance at Life

June 6, 2011

Dan D. is a recent liver recipient from the Chicago Metropolitan Area.  On March 1st of 2011, Dan was given an amazing gift of life from a selfless donor.  Now, Dan is committed to dedicating his time and talents to building organ and tissue donation awareness and registering donors.

Dan and his wife Nancy

I was one of the lucky ones.

In 2001, I lost consciousness on a commercial flight from Denver to Chicago. My first thought was that I had a severe case of the flu. Upon landing in Chicago, I was taken to the hospital and immediately admitted. After two days of testing, doctors found that I was anemic from bleeding stomach ulcers caused by aspirin, which I had used regularly since turning 50.

They also found something else that was both urgent and potentially life-threatening. Tests revealed that I was experiencing elevated liver profiles caused by cirrhosis of the liver. I was fortunate because they found the issue early while I still had a high-functioning liver. However, my team of doctors and I were determined to limit any further damage.

We decided that the best course of action was to schedule me for an abdominal scan every six months to check for liver cancer. In 2008, the liver team found a small, potentially cancerous lesion on my liver. After three biopsies done over several months, I was informed on September 9, 2009, that I had liver cancer and would need a liver transplant to stay alive. Within days, I was on the national transplant waiting list.

Dan enjoying his second chance at life.

My situation forced my family and me to learn about life on the transplant waiting list. My wife Nancy, my two grown daughters and I researched my disease and treatment. We also reached out to friends who had received transplants and those like me who were waiting. After months of diligent research, I felt I was one of the most informed patients on the waiting list and that everything would be all right.

The next 18 months were a combination of waiting and preparing. I was called to the hospital three times and prepared for surgery. Each time I was told the liver was not a good match. On February 28 of this year, I received a call I will never forget. There was another potential match. Luckily, this call was not a false alarm—I received a new liver and a new lease on life.

Dan at work shortly after his transplant.

My recovery went quickly, and I was back at work after 30 days and back into my normal, active routine after only 90 days. I was blessed with the support of a wonderful family and a talented transplant team that was fully dedicated to saving my life. But none of this would have happened, and I would still be waiting if my donor hadn’t decided to register his or her decision to give life through organ donation. Someone unselfishly decided that he or she wanted to save someone’s life by registering as an organ and tissue donor. This was truly a gift of life that I will treasure forever. My family is eternally grateful to the family—and the donor—that decided to give me a second chance at life.

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect, I’m amazed at how little my family and I thought about organ and tissue donation before I learned that I would need a new liver. I now realize how important it is to give the gift of life through donation. After reading my story, I hope you do, too. Please take a few moments to learn more about donation and to register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org.

Dan D.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation and to register your decision to donate life, go to DonateLifeIllinois.org.  For more information on Dan and his transplant, visit Dan’s Liver Blog.


Share Your Story: Part 2

April 14, 2011

“Will to Live” (submitted by Kim McMahon)

William "Will" McMahon

My son William “Will” McMahon was an active, healthy, 16-year-old honor student. During the last week of 2004, he suddenly developed flu-like symptoms. Less than a week later, Will was diagnosed with inexplicable liver failure.

He was flown to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla., in critical condition. We were told that, without a liver transplant, he had just 24 hours to live. Miraculously, he received a donated liver in time to save his life. Following his transplant, Will fought bravely to recover and successfully returned home to resume his school work along with his passions of surfing and playing the  guitar. However, five months later, Will developed complications and was relisted on the national transplant waiting list—he needed a second liver transplant. Will was not so lucky this time. A donor liver never arrived, and he passed away on May 19, 2005, as he waited.

My experience has made me an enthusiastic advocate for donation. Following Will’s passing, I founded Donate 4 William, a not-for-profit foundation, in my son’s memory with the goal of educating others about the overwhelming need for registered donors. I spend much of my time speaking to schools, civic groups and other audiences to encourage everyone to register as organ and tissue donors. I also am honored to serve on the United Network for Organ Sharing Patient Affairs Committee where I work to make a difference in organ donation policy and procedures on behalf of patients.

I am motivated to spread awareness about the need for organ and tissue donation because I know that every day 18 people die waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and more than 110,000 Americans currently are on the national transplant waiting list. Regrettably, fewer than half of the eligible registrants in the United States have decided to be organ and tissue donors. We can save the lives of those in need by registering ourselves and encouraging others to register as organ and tissue donors. It takes less than one minute to register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLife, the Donate Life America Web site, or at the DLA-affiliated donation advocacy organization in your state. In Illinois, that organization is Donate Life Illinois.

For more information on Will and his story, I encourage you to view the short documentary Will 2 Live.

Kim McMahon

Register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org.


Journey to the U.S. Tranplant Games – Chapter 1

June 4, 2010

Jen (Team IL) and Paul (Team Michigan) at the Games in Pittsburgh

My name is Jen Klouse and I am a liver transplant recipient originally from Millington, Michigan and now living in the Chicago area.  On September 15th, I will be celebrating 12 years with my second chance at life and with my precious gift that I have been given.  I have often been asked the questions: “what was it like to go through what you went through?” or “do you ever wish you never had to have a transplant?” my answer is no.  Even though I was just hours away from losing my life, the good Lord above chose to leave me here to fulfill my purpose in life and to help spread awareness to others about the importance of organ donation.  With my experience of having a transplant, I have learned to never take one single breath for granted and to find meaning in everything I do.

I first became involved with competing in the U.S. Games after a meeting at Caribou Coffee in Bolingbrook, IL.  The meeting was for yPOD: Young Professionals for Organ Donation.  The group was facilitated by Joslyn Osten and Scott Meis from DLI.  I met a few other people there who had transplants as well, one of them in particular by the name of Jorie.  Jorie was talking about going to Australia in a couple of years to compete in “the world games” which I had no idea what she was talking about.  She began to tell me that every 2 years there are the World Transplant Games where athletes from all over the world represent their country and compete in athletic events.  The significance of these games was that every athlete competing has had a transplant!  She then began to tell me I should join Team Illinois for the U.S. Games that were to be held in Pittsburgh, PA.  From the moment after that conversation with Jorie, up to the first day I stepped one foot onto the ground of the airport in Pittsburgh I was starting to understand why I had the transplant.  I can guarantee you I will not miss the U.S. Games or World Games from this point on.

My experience with the U.S. Games in Pittsburgh in 2008 was one of the most incredible, life changing experiences I have ever had.  To be in a room with thousands of other people that have gone through a similar experience that you have gone through is pretty amazing.  I think one of my favorite parts of the Games was at the opening ceremonies where each state comes out waving to the crowd; each state being so different, yet the amazing part of it was we were all there for the same purpose.  The people I met, the stories that were shared and the events that took place, such as the Donor Recognition Ceremony, are something you can’t really describe in words.  The feeling you have when you are there is something so incredible, something so powerful.  I urge you to bring a box of Kleenex with you, as you will be touched, especially when the donor families are recognized and walk out onto the floor.

As my journey to Madison continues, I will be posting blog entries along the way to share with you how I am preparing for the games and what is going on with Team Illinois!

– Jen

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