Living liver donation: Life-saving move on the rise
One in five people on the waiting list for a donor liver will die before an organ becomes available. Now, over the past two years the number of people undergoing living liver transplantation in the U.S. has risen from 300 in 2017 to over 400 last year.
Thirty-seven-year old Wayne Livingston hated pancakes until six months ago. Now he can’t get enough of them. Fitness and pancakes are two things Livingston has in common with 49-year old Rina Kader. The third? A piece of Kader is now inside Livingston. Livingston had a life-threatening liver condition, hiding his yellowing eyes behind dark glasses. He needed a transplant but couldn’t even get on the donor list because of insurance restrictions. Despite growing fatigue last year, Livingston continued his landscaping job.
“I was at Rina’s and was letting her know I might not be able to cut your grass in the fall. She said, ‘why, what’s wrong?’ I said I have to have a liver transplant, and I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said Livingston.
In that instant, Kader made a decision to help a man she barely knew.
“The need was there. And I felt I could fill it,” said Kader.
Nationwide, five percent of all liver donations are from a live donor. At UPMC in Pittsburgh, it’s 55 percent.
With living liver donation, surgeons need just a portion since it has the unique ability to grow back.
Abhi Humar, MD, Chief of Transplant Surgery at UPMC said, “So within eight to ten weeks the liver will regenerate back to full size.”
On October 22nd, both Kader and Livingston entered the hospital. Kader’s surgery started first, followed by Livingston’s. Both were successful.
“All these beautiful wonderful things in life have to start somewhere with one person saying yes,” Kader shared.
One person’s leap-of-faith, becoming another’s second chance.
“My angel happened to be someone I was cutting grass for. Who knew?” Livingston told Ivanhoe.
Livingston’s wife Tasha was willing to donate a portion of her liver to him, but as his primary caretaker after the surgery, doctors would not consider her. None of his family members were a match. Livingston says after everything they’ve been through, he and Tasha consider Kader a sister, not just a friend or donor.