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Kristin and James Pauley: Living-Donor Liver Transplant Patient Story

Kristin and James Pauley.

The Challenge: Liver Failure

James Pauley was diagnosed with stage 4 liver failure in 2017. During a previous operation where doctors removed James’ gallbladder, they noticed some scarring on his liver. From there, doctors referred him to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation. James’ daughter, Kristin, was in nursing school at the time and would go with James to his appointments. When the doctor told James that all he needed to do was change his diet, Kristin knew that wasn’t enough to help her father.

“I knew something wasn’t right,” said Kristin.

“I knew enough to know that simply changing his diet wouldn’t help the scarring on his liver.”

The Path to Living Donation at UPMC

That is when James was referred to UPMC. Doctors at UPMC told James that he had about 18 months to live if he did not receive a liver transplant soon. Kristin immediately began researching transplantation at UPMC and wanted to become her father’s living donor.

“I had no idea about anything related to living donation,” said Kristin.

“I just knew that I wasn’t going to lose my dad at 24 years old.”

Hopeful that she could become James’ living-liver donor, in March 2018, Kristin traveled from West Virginia to Pittsburgh to be evaluated. After testing, she learned she was compatible with her father.

“I went to my parents’ house and told them that I was going to be his living donor,” said Kristin.

“I just remember him crying after I told him.”

After Kristin broke the news to her father and family about her decision to donate, she went in for bloodwork as part of the pre-transplant process. However, when Kristin’s bloodwork came back, doctors informed her that she was pregnant, making her ineligible for donation.

“I was so overwhelmed, I just wanted to cry,” said Kristin.

A few weeks later, Kristin noticed some bleeding. She had experienced a miscarriage.

The Solution: A Daughter Donates a Liver to Her Father

After her miscarriage, Kristin returned to Pittsburgh to make sure she was still healthy enough to donate to her father. Following her test results, both James and Kristin were told they were ready for the transplant.

In June 2018, James received a piece of Kristin’s healthy liver, and both are doing well in their recoveries.

“UPMC was great. They treated me like family from the minute I walked in,” said James.

“They answered all of our questions and were there to help with whatever I needed.”

While you are unable to donate if you are pregnant or become pregnant, having a child is still possible after living donation.

Just about three years after her transplant, 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,” said Kristin.

“I wouldn’t have wanted this process to happen any other way.”


James and Kristin’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.