Family can be one of the most important components in life. In almost every aspect of any journey, most people can count on their relatives to help overcome the challenge ahead. In this case, sometimes family isn’t always your only option when it comes to help.
By taking part in a living-donor liver transplant exchange, a total of four individuals were able to be a part of one life-changing moment that they will all cherish for the rest of their lives.
A living-donor liver transplant exchange starts with a person who signs up to become a living donor but doesn’t have a specific individual in mind to receive their donation. This generous person donates their liver to a patient on the waiting list who has an incompatible living donor.
In this case, this donor is incompatible only to this particular patient due to the anatomy, size or blood type. Both are perfectly healthy to donate to someone else on the wait list and in return, this donor donates for someone else on the waiting list, helping two patients at the same time.
Dave Wagus wanted nothing more than to become a living donor for his neighbor who was in desperate need of a liver transplant. However, after a CT scan revealed that he had fatty liver, Dave was unable to donate at that time. He chose to remain on the living donor list as non-directed donor and was instructed by his doctor to lose 20 pounds to help reduce the amount of fat collected in his liver. Dave complied, and after his weight loss he was healthy enough become a living donor a year later.
A non-directed donor is someone who seeks to donate an organ but does not know the recipient who will receive their donation.
“I never considered living donation until my neighbor reached out for help,” Dave said.
“I chose to remain on the list because I just wanted to help someone in need.”
A little over a month later, Dave received a phone call saying that he had been matched with a patient on the liver transplant waiting list. That patient’s name was Richard Scida.
Meet Richard and Taylor
Richard was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in Jan. 2018 and needed a liver transplant. In the spring of 2019, Richard was referred to the Liver Transplant Evaluation Clinic at UPMC Hamot by his physician and was put on the liver transplant waiting list at UPMC.
“After so long of being on the waiting list, I was elated when I was told I would be getting a new liver.”
Richard’s niece, Taylor Jacob, initially wanted to donate part of her liver to her uncle. But the transplant evaluation revealed that she was not a match and was unable to become his donor.
Like Dave, Taylor remained on the living donor list and in April of 2020, she was able to donate to another patient on the waiting list who she was a better match for.
“I was a little nervous being told I wasn’t compatible with my uncle,” Taylor said.
“But I’m glad I was able to make myself a part of this process so I could still help someone else.”
Taylor’s generous donation went to Laura Wood. Laura was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis in 2013 and was asymptomatic until the birth of her daughter in 2016.
“I received a call from my transplant coordinator at UPMC in early April 2020 and was told I would be able to receive a transplant thanks to a very generous donor. I was in complete shock. I had a few people interested in donating, but they did not work out. I made a Facebook page and even paid for ads on Facebook” Laura said.
“However, I never gave up hope. The one thing you cannot do is give up.”
Thanks to Dave, Taylor, and the team at UPMC, Laura and Richard both successfully received their liver transplants in April 2020.
“Taylor is such an amazing person and truly is my hero and my angel. We went from complete strangers to liver sisters. She is one of the sweetest people I have ever met in my life,” Laura said.
Both Laura and Taylor are doing well with their recoveries and still keep in touch with one another.
“Laura is such a special person, and we will always have that bond forever,” Taylor said.
Dave had such a great experience with the liver transplant process, that he would like to become a living kidney donor as well.
“I’m still healthy enough to donate, and I just want to help the people who need it most,” Dave said.
Richard has had a healthy recovery and is back to doing what he loves most, and that’s working on wood projects in his shop. He is currently working on building a kitchen island for his daughter.
“During the day, I feel like I’m 30 years old again,” Richard said.
“If it weren’t for Taylor, Dave, and UPMC, my life would be completely different, and I thank everyone who was a part of this journey.”
How Can You Help?
If you're thinking about becoming a living donor for someone in need, learn more about living-donor organ transplants.