In Your Area
American Liver Foundation
New York, NY 10006
When I was 11, I was diagnosed with PSC and told I'd one day need transplant. For ten years after that diagnosis I was relatively healthy but still listed for a transplant. As time passed and I grew up, the thought and worry of a transplant became less compelling. My body felt fine and my mind fell into the trap of thinking that's how my condition would remain. I never let my liver disease get in my way and was married ten years later to my high-school sweetheart. Unfortunately, in 2008, my condition quickly deteriorated and the need for a transplant became much more acute. In the span of three months at the end of that year, I was hospitalized four times and turned jaundice and weak. To complicate matters, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with twins due January 2010. Our joy and excitement were dulled by the fact that we knew I needed a life-saving transplant. On September 16th, 2009a wonderful family decided to give the gift of life and donate a liver to me. It's a gift I thank them for every day. Three months later, my wife and I had a beautiful boy and girl and a happy, healthy family.
My journey with liver disease began in 2009, when I was 12 years old. After being rushed to the ER due to burst esophageal varices, doctors were shocked to learn that my liver was dangerously close to failure. Luckily, the doctors were able to save my liver, sparing me the need to undergo a liver transplant. After a liver biopsy and many blood tests, the doctors confirmed their suspicions that I had Autoimmune Hepatitis. I was discharged after 6 days in the hospital with a heavy medication regimen. After a few months, the doctors learned that the immunosuppressant medication was barely doing any good, and they had to immediately switch me to a different immunosuppressant, which did work properly. I made a full recovery, and while I will most likely have to take medication for the rest of my life, I lead a completely normal life. My experience with liver disease inspired me to want to help others suffering from liver disease, and this year I spent a fabulous summer interning for the American Liver Foundation.
Following an accident at work in 1995, my blood work revealed high enzymes. I told the doctor that I had been diagnosed with hepatitis as a child, and that it was fine. When my doctor emphasized that I needed to get tests and possibly required serious medical attention, I thought nonsense, I felt right as rain. After enduring the insistence of my spouse, I agreed to get checked out. When I did, I was informed that since my diagnosis in 1979 classifications for hepatitis had evolved to clarify different types of the disease. I was told that I had hepatitis C. After years of misunderstanding about my condition, my symptoms became problematic in 2008 and I discovered that I had cirrhosis and needed a new liver. I would not receive one until January 27th, 2013 when one finally became available. After the procedure, my body accepted the liver, but complications from surgery left me in a coma for some time. Now recovering from the ordeal at home, I’m committed in my mission to raise awareness. I fear that other people might also ignore their doctors and even their own bodies and symptoms. I’m offering my case to show that anyone could have liver disease, or discover a personal connection to liver disease, and that it must be taken seriously. Since 2008, I have participated annually in the Liver Life Walk with Stellamarie’s Call - named by my then four-year-old daughter. Every visitor to my Personal Fundraising Page is offered links and resources that I collect all year to discuss the value of getting tested, the importance of organ donation, and the need to obliterate liver disease.
I was born with biliary atresia, a liver disease that occurs because there is a blockage in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder. My parents were told that I would eventually need a liver transplant to live. At 6 weeks of age, I underwent an operation to delay the imminent damage to my liver. After the failure of this operation, my mom, Heather, was tested to see if she could be a living donor, but the doctors said they could only use her liver as a last resort. I was put on the donor list, and, thanks to another family’s heroic decision to donate their loved one’s organs, I received my new liver at Mt. Sinai Hospital when I was 6 months old. While I still need to go to the doctor often and have to be careful, I am healthy!