Replacement parts are more varied and some are more plentiful.
Depending upon the source, it seems that as many as 7 to 10 lives can be saved and an additional 15 can be improved when someone who has chosen to be an organ donor makes the gift of life. Not only are major organs transplanted but also tissue such as corneas, intestines, and bone marrow.
I got a replacement liver just last January. Boy, am I happy to be alive now: the alternative was getting pretty close.
My liver was shutting down, just not processing as it is designed. Fatigue, muscle loss, and brain function deteriorated as nutrients were ignored or converted to harmful elements in my system. Cancer had arrived, and persevered for months as my body was subjected to treatment after treatment as each new tumor was discovered.
The University of California, San Francisco Liver Transplant Service had determined that I qualified to be placed on the national transplant list in May, 2009, and I waited, patiently, for my name to rise to the top of the list. The waiting period was anticipated to be between 12 and 18 months.
CT scans, monthly lab work, and surprise drug and alcohol use tests became routine. Endoscopies, colonoscopies, grams of all systems filled my charts.
After a year of waiting, the Transplant Board notified UCSF that my "number" was put on hold for 3 months: too many tumors had been seen in my liver.
My husband and I went to Hawaii for a month while we could. We "Delta Doo Dahhhhed" a second time. We visited family and spent time with good friends.
When my next CT showed no tumors, the Board returned me to "active" status, but at the beginning of the list.
I looked elsewhere for a region with a shorter waiting time: my husband and I went to the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville FL, for evaluation. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic found more tumors, and did not accept me for their transplant list.
Always looking for an opportunity hidden in a cloud, my husband and I drove along the First Coast through Savannah, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Columbia and finally Atlanta. We spent Christmas with friends and saw sights with family.
I returned home, optimistic that my regular medical team could eradicate these tumors, but no. My lab work indicated that my liver was failing at a more rapid rate. My doctor and I had The Conversation. My therapist and I worked on how I felt about The Conversation.
It was time for a miracle.
The miracle came just after breakfast the morning of January 15: First Day of the 2011 Corinthian Yacht Club's legendary Mid-winter Races, 11th Anniversary of the day we met, 7th Anniversary of the night Ben proposed marriage...and a morning which looked pretty bleak when we arose.
After a week of no's, and hours on the Internet looking up prices, airfares, trips for my last travel plans, I was ready to spend money to celebrate Judy's birthday in Z-town, go to Disneyland with Nora, and watch the A's Spring Training in Phoenix. (I was also ready to do one of those small boat cruises in Alaska, but it wasn't the right time of year!)
Before I spent money, I wanted to finally write two thank you notes for some incredibly generous gifts I received: an unexpected Christmas dinner, and a first-class seat home from Atlanta. I finished the first, and was half-way through the second note.
My phone rang: highly unusual, no one ever calls me (I don't call anyone). "Is this Lucie Mewes?" The unfamiliar voice was surely from a crank caller. (Apparently I'm not the only person who's had that reaction.). "I think I have a perfect liver for you." I think Dr. Kang was right, it's working pretty well.)
My replacement liver was shipped to UCSF from Phoenix Memorial Hospital. I arrived at 11:45 AM for the multitude of final checks, and it arrived at 3PM, ready for cleanup and transplant. I got the call because I lived close, I was close to death, I was the right size and shape. Another patient was designated to receive this liver and only when the AZ team was in the operating room were they able to determine that this perfect liver, the gift of a 21 year old woman who had been in perfect health, was not going to work. Because it was in great shape, it was offered to UCSF, and ME!