In August of 2013, Michael Pitterich was a successful Pittsburgh business man. Until one evening, while at work, he started to feel very sick. After leaving early to go home and rest, his condition worsened and he was taken to the emergency room at a local area hospital.
Michael spent the next few days in the hospital but his health continued to decline so, he was transferred to UPMC Montefiore where doctors worked to stabilize his condition. After a series of tests, Michael was diagnosed with chronic liver disease.
The Challenge: Waiting for a Liver Transplant
In December, Michael sat down with his doctors to discuss his options and to determine if he would be a suitable candidate for a liver transplant. After undergoing an evaluation, he was placed on the transplant waiting list.
With 15,000 people currently waiting for a liver transplant, Michael knew that he had to start looking into other options if he wanted to survive.
“They let me know how long I would have to wait,” says Michael. “I was sick enough to need a new liver but not sick enough to go to the top of the list. That is when they told me about finding a live donor.”
During a living-donor liver transplant, a living person has a piece of their healthy liver removed and transplanted into another person to replace their unhealthy liver. These transplants are possible because of the liver’s unique ability to regenerate, or regrow.
“I thought it was a miracle,” says Michael. “I didn’t know if anyone I knew would be willing to donate so I just started asking my friends and family.”
The Solution: A Living Donor
A mutual friend introduced Michael to a young woman, who after hearing his situation, decided she wanted to help.
One of the many benefits of living-donor liver transplants is the ability for patients, like Michael, to receive a transplant sooner than they would if they were placed on the waiting list for an organ from a deceased donor.
“By the time I qualified for a liver I was going to be so sick the operation would not have been possible,” says Michael.
Michael underwent a transplant on April 21, 2015 - only a few short weeks after finding his donor.
The Results: A Second Life
Since his transplant, Michael and his donor have recovered and are both doing well. He has hired a manager to run his business and is taking more time to relax. In addition to the transplant team, he will always remember the gift of life his donor gave him.
“She is a remarkable person and truly just wanted to do something to help someone,” says Michael.
Michael’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More About Liver Disease and Living-Donor
UPMC Liver Cancer Center:
UPMC HealthBeat Blog:
- What Is Living-Donor Liver Transplant Surgery?
- Living-Donor Transplant: A Choice to Stop Waiting and Keep Living
Digestive Disorders Center: