Did you know that the liver is the only internal organ that can regenerate itself? October is National Liver Awareness Month, and ConnectLife was honored to share two local stories of liver transplantation. We talked with Chad Glaser and Sarah Jeris about how both of their lives had been positively impacted by liver transplantation, but in different ways!
Chad & Ethan Glaser
Chad is a living liver donor. He donated a portion of his liver to save his son Ethan's life. Ethan's transplant was on June 6, 2003, two months prior to his second birthday. Chad was 31 years old. We asked Chad what it was like being a living donor and how his family's life has been changed post-transplant.
Q: What do you want people to know about liver transplants and/or being a living donor?
A: I think it important to realize is that liver transplantation in our country is not experimental by any means. These surgeons, physician, and all of their supporting staff perform liver transplants successfully at medical centers of excellence on a regular basis.
I will never forget what Ethan's doctor said to us when he was at his worst point. I was a match, and we had to move forward to save Ethan's life. Ethan's doctor said to my wife and I that if everything goes as planned you will be asking yourself why you didn't do this sooner, and he was right. Nothing comes without complications and concerns, but I would take transplantation care over his disease any day of the week.
What made it easier for me being a live donor was that I knew I could give Ethan life again. How often does a person have the opportunity to give the ultimate gift? I was also told that I was not just saving Ethan's life, but that I was also saving the life of another person who will know get the liver Ethan was waiting for. That to me is also very special to this day!
Q: How is your family life different now post-transplant?
A: Since Ethan was diagnosed with his disease two months after birth, it's hard to remember what life was like prior to transplant. How we live today is our norm. Immediately post-transplant, Ethan required many medications as well as had some acute rejection. He also required additional surgeries due to a bile duct stricture. Currently, we live by how his labs are. His most recent set of rejection was just about a year ago. It required an adjustment to medication and all was well after that.
Q: Do you and your son have things on your bucket list you’re looking forward to tackling in the future?
A: We would love to eventually be able to ski the Swiss Alps together. Skiing for us is a very special bond which we've been doing together since Ethan was 3.
Sarah is a liver transplant recipient who recieved the gift of life on December 23, 2015. She was 38 years old. We talked to Sarah about how different her life is now post-transplant. Hear from Sarah to see what she had to say about life, health, and looking toward the future.
Q: How is your life different post-transplant?
A: The most important change is that I now have a good quality of life. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when I was 20 years old, so my entire adult life was a struggle with fatigue and symptoms, and medication changes that prevented me from having a good quality of life.
Q: What do you want people to know about liver transplants and/or receiving a new liver?
A: As difficult as the surgery and recovery was, it was amazing to me that it was almost an instant feeling of relief from many symptoms. The jaundice was gone. The fluid retention went away quickly, and I was finally able to think clearly and not be so forgetful. Even during the recovery, I felt like I was able to live what I had always imagined a "normal" life would be. There were times I had to be told to slow down because I really was still recovering, even though it didn't feel like it.
Q: What activities can you now do post-transplant?
A: I have been able to go back to work full time (I never worked full time because of my illness limitations). I have the energy to enjoy vacations without feeling like I had to scale back on my activities because I could not keep up with everyone else. I have gone white water rafting and hiking. I am also able to spend more quality time with my kids. They are now 19 and 17 years old and they often had to watch me struggle with being so sick most of the time. Now, they get to see me happy and healthy. To me, that is priceless.
Q: Do you have things on your bucket list you’re looking forward to tackling in the future?
A: I am looking forward to traveling the world and experiencing people and places that I never thought would be possible. I would like to visit Iceland, Paris, and Australia. Most importantly, I will be able to see both of my daughters get married someday.
Sarah and Chad's stories are different yet similar in many ways. Organ donation changed both of their lives! Are you inspired to join the registry? You can do so here. It takes less than one minute.