Live liver transplants are a game-changer for desperate patients.
If you’re a typical adult, your liver weighs about 3 pounds. It’s wedge-shaped and reddish-brown, with two lobes (the right one bigger than the left). Between them runs a band of connective tissue anchoring the organ in place on your right side, taking up most of the space under your ribs plus some overlap into the upper left abdomen.
Your liver is full of blood and bile. It’s also ridiculously busy. With more than 500 distinct functions in the human body, this hardworking hunk of “lobules” basically keeps us running. Without a liver, we’re dead in days.
Your liver, though, is tough and can power through a lot of abuse. When damaged, the liver can repair itself so seamlessly you might never know you were injured. As a result, we tend to take our livers for granted. Unless you happen to be one of the many thousands of Americans diagnosed with liver failure every year.
Tina Marie Money is a 42 year old wife and mother of an 8 year old little boy in West Oak Lane. A few years ago, she started to feel… off. Tired, bloated, nauseous. Her stomach was tender and pooched out like she was pregnant; her skin itched. Sometimes she could barely catch her breath. After months and months of testing, she was finally diagnosed with polycystic liver disease, a rare, genetic disorder that was riddling her liver with fluid-filled sacs that can rupture and cause infection, or worse yet, hemorrhage.
Tina’s doctors at first tried removing the damaged tissue – about 30% of her liver was resected. Recovery was rough but soon she was feeling better and ready to move on with her life. Then suddenly the disease roared back with a vengeance…
Tina’s been in and out of the hospital, exhausting every treatment option as her liver grows more scarred and swollen every day. Doctors say a liver transplant is the last resort, her final chance for a normal life, her only option against a constant cycle of pain and sepsis. Unfortunately, since Tina’s condition is hereditary, most of her family is automatically ineligible to be donors. This leaves her fighting to hang on while she prays to God and pleads her case to everyone who’ll listen.
“This isn’t easy for me,” she told us, “I realize it is a lot to ask but I believe angels come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Please be my angel! Help me be around to see my child grow up.”
DID YOU KNOW…? You can donate your liver and it’ll grow right back!
In a live liver transplant, surgeons only need like 25 – 65% to grow a full organ in the recipient’s body. Donors can expect to leave the hospital 4 – 7 days after the procedure, with a badass belly scar and another 3 to 6 weeks of recovery. The donor’s liver, btw, immediately starts repairing itself. In two months, it’ll be good as new. Studies show no signs that this surgery has any affect on a donor’s life span or risk for liver disease.
No one’s saying this is easy, though. Donating liver tissue apparently hurts way more than giving up a whole kidney. Statistically, it’s quite safe with mortality rates under 0.5% worldwide. It’s also free! All medical expenses are paid by the recipient’s insurance – and there’s a ton of testing, exams and interviews in the screening process. If you’re matched, you’re assigned an advocate to personally see you through the process and represent you in clinician meetings.
Neither race nor gender matter when it comes to live liver donors. The first step in determining compatibility is a simple blood test (fyi, Tina is type A):
BLOOD TYPE COMPATABILITY
A O, A
B O, B
AB O, A, B, AB
Living donor liver transplants have better survival rates, faster recovery, less complications and practically no waiting list since most live donors are family or friends. Unfortunately living donor transplants are not the norm, mainly because they require specialized treatment not available in many parts of the country. We’re lucky here in Philadelphia, where the region’s most advanced organ donor programs save many lives a year.
Tina is hoping with all her heart that someone will be touched by her story, and be the miracle she needs before her time runs out. “If you are unable to help me, please say a prayer for me and my donor wherever they are,” she said. And please help her spread the word! Tina’s situation is dire: one in five patients dies while waiting for a transplant. Still, she’s undaunted. “I’m fighting for my life and I refuse to give up hope that I will beat this.”
Read more about live liver transplants by following the links here, and check out Tina’s feature on Fox 29 from this January. See americantransplantfoundation.org for other life-saving action steps we can all take to support patients like Tina in our communities and across the country. And please consider making a donation on her GoFundMe page (where you can connect with Tina, as well).
Five Fast Facts About Your Amazing Liver
- You can remove 75%, and it’ll grow back in 8 to 15 days.
- The liver is not just an organ – it’s also a gland, creating vital chemicals as it works.
- It’s a blood filter for toxins (like drugs & alcohol) and also for old/damaged blood cells themselves.
- It stores vitamins and minerals essential for healing, immunity and making more humans. It also stores glucose needed to regulate insulin.
- The liver breaks down the fats, protein and carbs that we consume into energy we need for life.