The Challenge: Making the Choice to Be a Liver Donor
Jeanne Defibaugh and Stephanie Fisher aren't actually related, they do share an amazing bond. They have both given the gift of life by becoming living donors for people they care about.
As a wife and a mother, Stephanie Fisher is a strong believer in always taking care of family.
So, when she learned her brother-in-law Rick — Jeanne’s husband — was sick and in need of a life-saving liver transplant, Stephanie stepped up. She knew right away that she would be the one to help him.
“When we first found out, we were just in shock,” says Stephanie. “I can’t even describe the feeling that took over me. I just knew that if I could do something to help, I needed to do it.”
The Path to Living-Donor Liver Transplant at UPMC
In 2009, Rick had an extensive transplant evaluation at UPMC where the transplant team placed him on the liver transplant waiting list.
While he knew a living-donor liver transplant was possible, he feared putting anyone in his family at risk. This made him hesitant to discuss the option with his family.
“Rick didn’t really want to tell people at first. He felt that he couldn’t ask anyone in our family to do that for him,” says Jeanne. “But when people started approaching us about getting tested, I told him that we need to start talking about it.”
During a living-donor liver transplant, a living person has a piece of their healthy liver removed. Surgeons then transplant it into another person to replace the unhealthy liver.
These transplants are possible because of the liver’s unique ability to grow back, or regenerate.
Living-donor liver transplants offer many benefits. They allow people to receive a transplant sooner than they would if they were on the waiting list for a deceased-donor organ.
When Stephanie learned that a living-donor transplant was an option, she was excited. She knew that this was her chance to save her brother-in-law's life.
“I felt like something was telling me that I had to do this,” says Stephanie. “You just know when something feels right, and I knew that I had to get tested to be his donor.”
Luckily for Rick, Stephanie was a match.
The Solution: Saving a Life by Donating Part of Her Liver
On Oct. 26, 2010, Jeanne said goodbye to both Rick and Stephanie as they went into surgery.
“Leading up to the transplant, Rick and I were both so concerned about Stephanie,” remembers Jeanne. “Her son was four years old at the time so we really wanted to make sure that she would be okay.”
Stephanie went home within a week after surgery and returned to work within six weeks.
The Results: Making a Family Stronger
Today Rick and Stephanie are both doing well. She believes that the entire process made their family stronger.
“I married into this crazy family, and now I definitely think Rick and I are the favorites,” jokes Stephanie. “It really did seem to bring us all closer together.”
Jeanne was so thankful for what Stephanie did for her husband. In fact, Jeanne became a living donor herself when a close friend needed a kidney transplant.
Learn more about becoming a living organ donor, like Stephanie.
Stephanie and Rick’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.
Learn More About Organ Donation and Living-Donor Transplant
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