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Dan’s Second Chance at Life

Posted Jun 06 2011 11:56am

Dan D. is a recent liver recipient from the Chicago Metropolitan Area.  On March 1st of 2011, Dan was given an amazing gift of life from a selfless donor.  Now, Dan is committed to dedicating his time and talents to building organ and tissue donation awareness and registering donors.

Dan and his wife Nancy

I was one of the lucky ones.

In 2001, I lost consciousness on a commercial flight from Denver to Chicago. My first thought was that I had a severe case of the flu. Upon landing in Chicago, I was taken to the hospital and immediately admitted. After two days of testing, doctors found that I was anemic from bleeding stomach ulcers caused by aspirin, which I had used regularly since turning 50.

They also found something else that was both urgent and potentially life-threatening. Tests revealed that I was experiencing elevated liver profiles caused by cirrhosis of the liver. I was fortunate because they found the issue early while I still had a high-functioning liver. However, my team of doctors and I were determined to limit any further damage.

We decided that the best course of action was to schedule me for an abdominal scan every six months to check for liver cancer. In 2008, the liver team found a small, potentially cancerous lesion on my liver. After three biopsies done over several months, I was informed on September 9, 2009, that I had liver cancer and would need a liver transplant to stay alive. Within days, I was on the national transplant waiting list.

Dan enjoying his second chance at life.

My situation forced my family and me to learn about life on the transplant waiting list. My wife Nancy, my two grown daughters and I researched my disease and treatment. We also reached out to friends who had received transplants and those like me who were waiting. After months of diligent research, I felt I was one of the most informed patients on the waiting list and that everything would be all right.

The next 18 months were a combination of waiting and preparing. I was called to the hospital three times and prepared for surgery. Each time I was told the liver was not a good match. On February 28 of this year, I received a call I will never forget. There was another potential match. Luckily, this call was not a false alarm—I received a new liver and a new lease on life.

Dan at work shortly after his transplant.

My recovery went quickly, and I was back at work after 30 days and back into my normal, active routine after only 90 days. I was blessed with the support of a wonderful family and a talented transplant team that was fully dedicated to saving my life. But none of this would have happened, and I would still be waiting if my donor hadn’t decided to register his or her decision to give life through organ donation. Someone unselfishly decided that he or she wanted to save someone’s life by registering as an organ and tissue donor. This was truly a gift of life that I will treasure forever. My family is eternally grateful to the family—and the donor—that decided to give me a second chance at life.

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect, I’m amazed at how little my family and I thought about organ and tissue donation before I learned that I would need a new liver. I now realize how important it is to give the gift of life through donation. After reading my story, I hope you do, too. Please take a few moments to learn more about donation and to register your decision to be an organ and tissue donor at DonateLifeIllinois.org .

- Dan D.

To learn more about organ and tissue donation and to register your decision to donate life, go to DonateLifeIllinois.org .  For more information on Dan and his transplant, visit Dan’s Liver Blog .


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