“I just knew that I wasn’t going to lose my dad.”
Kristin Pauley’s decision to become a living donor was personal: She did it to save her father.
Doctors diagnosed James Pauley with stage 4 liver failure in 2017, after noticing scarring on his liver during an operation to remove his gallbladder. He was referred to UPMC, where doctors told him he had 18 months to live without a liver transplant.
Kristin, who was in nursing school, immediately began researching transplantation. She learned about living-donor liver transplant, where a healthy donor can donate a portion of their liver to someone who needs a liver. Because the liver can regenerate, both the donor and recipient can have a healthy liver after the operation.
“I had no idea about anything related to living donation,” Kristin says. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to lose my dad at 24 years old.”
Kristin learned through evaluations that she was eligible to be her dad’s living donor. Excited, she went to her parents’ house to tell them the news.
“I just remember him crying after I told him,” Kristin says.
However, pretransplant bloodwork revealed that Kristin was pregnant. People who are pregnant cannot be living donors.
“I was so overwhelmed, I just wanted to cry,” said Kristin.
A few weeks later, Kristin noticed some bleeding. She had experienced a miscarriage.
After her miscarriage, Kristin received another evaluation to see if she could become her father’s living donor. Doctors cleared her, and in June 2018, James received a piece of Kristin’s healthy liver.
“UPMC was great,” James says. “They treated me like family from the minute I walked in. They answered all of our questions and were there to help with whatever I needed.”
Both Kristin and James recovered well after their procedure.
Living donors can still have a child after transplant. Three years after her donation to her father, Kristin gave birth to a baby girl. She and her husband now have three children.
“I can’t thank UPMC enough for what they did to help our family,” Kristin says. “I wouldn’t have wanted this process to happen any other way.”
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