Between Friends: Living Donors
It's a trend that's changing transplant medicine. More and more people are willing to donate a kidney or part of a liver - while they're still alive.
Doing a Favor for a Friend continued...
If Ken could do that for a stranger, Michael decided, he could surely do it
for a friend.
But first, he had to convince his wife, who flat-out opposed the plan. Then
he had to discuss his decision with his teen-age son. He told them both that
donating part of his liver was not only important to him but something he felt
he was supposed to do.
"I don't go to church but I have an inner vision," he says.
"It's a gut feeling I get, and I believe it is the true voice of God
speaking to me."
Next, he checked into the University of Virginia Medical Center in
Charlottesville for four days of testing: a thorough physical, a liver biopsy,
a tissue typing, and a mapping of his liver's arteries and veins. His tissue
matched Steven's more closely than anyone had expected. "It was so close it
was almost as if we were brothers, which was kind of strange," Steven
Michael met three times with the transplant team's psychiatrist. And each
time the psychiatrist asked the same core question: Why did he want to give
half of his liver to his friend? Michael gave the same answer each time: It
The night before the surgery, the two men shared a room. At 3 a.m., Michael
was prepared for surgery. "When they took Mike away, I was just laying
there, dazed, not really thinking too much about anything," Steven says.
"I was nervous." Michael, on the other hand, was totally relaxed. His
blood pressure was an unbelievable 100 over 70 with a pulse rate of 55 beats a
More than 14 hours later, Michael woke to searing pain. "Someone asked
me what it felt like, and I said it felt like they cut me in half and put me
back together," he says.
The pain would last for weeks. Still, Michael says, he went home three days
after surgery and felt well enough to host a cookout three weeks later. Steven
was discharged a week after surgery but had to be readmitted for a second
surgery to drain an abscess that had formed.
The men say their families grew closer after the transplant, though they
were always friends. They try to get together every couple of months for dinner
or a barbecue. In the past, they would have knocked back a few drinks to relax;
no longer. Michael quit drinking a decade ago, and Steven credits his friend's
healthy liver, in part, to that decision. So he's joined the diet-soda club,
"I want to treat Mike's liver as good as he treats it," Steven says.
And I want to keep it as long as possible."