Archive for March, 2012


Happy re-birthday to me (la la la)

It was one year ago today that I had my transplant. So it’s happy re-birthday to a part of me.

I remember vividly when Katie, my transplant coordinator called me. I was at my office having decided that morning I was tired of waiting for a liver. Being constructive (and impatient) I was filling out my paperwork for my pilot’s medical certificate. Katie called and I put the paperwork in my “hold” file and sent some texts out to Nancy, Laurie, and Annie at 12:49 PM. “I think they found a liver, meet you downtown” I had been prepped for surgery on three other occasions only to find the liver wasn’t a match. This time I knew was different. I collected my stuff and stopped by Ric’s, my favorite hamburger joint. Katie forgot to tell me not to eat and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. (Yum) The liver didn’t arrive at Midway Airport until 10:30 that evening (I tracked it on the Internet) and they finally put me under around 1 AM or so. I was glad I had the burger.

March of 2011 was recovery time. It wasn’t a lot of fun. On April 1st I visited the Gift of Hope folks thanking them for all they did, and a few days after that I was in the office. On June 28th we left Port Kenosha on the Nancy D for the Georgian Bay area in Canada and I was back to normal – just like it never happened. By July 10th the FAA gave me back my Pilot Medical Certificate. In January I was skiing Vail. The transplant seems like a long time ago.

Over the past couple of days I’ve sent some E-Mails out to my docs thanking them again and to all those that helped me through the process. The list is long. No matter how healthy and strong one might be it takes family, great docs, and support – especially for the first couple of weeks after surgery.

So today we almost have our philanthropy advisory council put together at Northwestern working together with the Foundation. We have our first meeting in April. We have a wonderful group of very grateful alumni on our council. Our charge is to promote and attract funding for some of the research initiatives at the center. We intend to take these efforts to the next level and establish a process that is built to last. It has amazed me the number of very talented alumni who want to make a difference – making it easier for the next guy coming down the transplant line. And only my imagination limits me to what a group of extremely dedicated and accomplished individuals can accomplish when let loose supporting this worthy cause. This will be great fun to Chair this effort.

This week I had a very interesting meeting with the founder of Living Kidney Donors Network. Harvey Mysel has put together a very unique organization. LKDN’s primary Mission is to educate people who need a kidney transplant about the LIVING donation process and to prepare them to effectively communicate their need to family members and friends. Their website is at

There are striking similarities between kidney and liver transplantation. A donor can be either a LIVE donor OR a deceased donor. A live donor can give up a kidney, leaving one remaining for a normal life. It’s the same with liver. In many cases a LIVE donor can donate up 60% of their liver and it grows back in a matter of a few weeks.

Harvey pointed something out to me and here is where it really becomes interesting….

Harvey did a quick search of the number of Liver Transplants, living and deceased: ++

Year 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Deceased Donors                                 614 5,614 6,009 6,101 6,070 6,228
Living Donors                                      226 226 282 219 249 266

NOTE: In 2001 there were 526 living liver transplants!!!( I’m sure there’s an explanation for that)

** For 2011 the #’s are complete only thru November.

++ Figures are from UNOS (

To Wit – Roughly speaking there are average 16,000 people in the USA waiting for a liver transplant. The math is very simple –many die waiting for a liver. It is the law of supply and demand and the demand trumps supply. The number of living donors is a small fraction of the deceased donors. Why is that? And why were there 526 living donor transplants in 2001 and only half of that today?

This raises more questions than it answers. Could the waiting list for livers be reduced or eliminated with more live donors? LKDN has saved countless lives by promoting live donations with kidneys. For every live donation it moves someone else up the list to receive a deceased donation. Could the same metric be applied to the liver? Could this be a game changer? What if the paradigm shifted? Can it be changed?

You might say – “so who will give up a liver or kidney for a stranger?” Well, from what I’ve seen there are plenty of people. A couple of entries down on this blog is the story of my friend Paul. He is two week post-op and doing great. His donor was a Good Samaritan.

Katrina Bramstedt wrote a book about Good Samaritans and the meaning of altruism. Katrina is a transplant ethicist and wrote – The Organ Donor Experience. It is a fascinating read and involves several case studies of good Samaritans making an organ donation. Her web page is at . The stories are inspirational. But more important they are life changing. The book explains the process for live donation and the factors relating to it.

All of this makes good discussion….