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  • A Life For A Life: My Gift To My Dad
  • Amy K. Lewensten

Aglimpse into my mind. My dad? Dying? Liver Disease? No—liver disease is for alcoholics—or people like my Uncle who have hepatitis. Uncle Al is dying of liver failure, Daddy is dying of liver failure, and the physician just told me I have high cholesterol, which could lead to obesity and liver failure. I am going to stop this cycle right now—I know it is me—out of all my siblings, I am going to save my dad’s life. This must be why all my sisters are short and skinny and I am tall and big boned—your liver has to be a certain size based on body type to sustain your own life and your recipient’s life. [End Page 21]

These were some of the many thousands of thoughts that raced through my mind from April of 2010 until today. Looking back my family and I can remember that something had been different about my dad during the previous three years. He was usually a sporty, outgoing, and active gentleman, who enjoyed tennis, fishing, and international travel. He was the president and owner of his own company and had been with his fiancé for over 10 years. He just started to slow down. He gained weight, suffered a heart attack, developed diabetes, and was depressed. Doctor’s in his hometown couldn’t seem to pinpoint and link his symptoms. It was not until two days before my college graduation that my world really start to unravel. My dad’s fiancée called hysterical—I just found your dad, unconscious in a pool of blood and vomit on the bathroom floor—he is being rushed to the hospital.

I have heard people describe how the world stops when they experience something traumatic, but you will never understand until it happens to you. I could not breathe. I could not move. My dad—my big, tall, strong dad—my hero, my protector, the number one man in my life, and I have no idea what will happen. It was after my father’s varices bleed that almost took his life that my family decided to seek treatment for my dad at a world renowned hospital.

We were thrilled at finally having answers and a plan, although the plan was not what we were expecting. Dad had little day to day functioning abilities, and could not even use the bathroom unassisted. If it were not for my little sister moving home from France to live with dad, we would have had problems. She spent her whole summer transporting him two hours back and forth to the doctor’s and taking care of his needs, along with my dad’s fiancée who was working to support them and taking care of him. (Side note: they both still suffer from PTSD and Depression as a direct result of dad’s illness). We were told that dad would be put on the transplant list, but that he would be low. He was sick enough to need round the clock care, but not sick enough to receive a liver soon, and while he waited the chances of him being healthy enough to survive a surgery diminished.

I knew the minute that I heard living donation was an option that it was going to be me. I can’t explain it but it was a gut feeling. I felt like a hero, excited at the thought of being able to give the gift of life. All throughout my days of testing pre–transplant I was like a small town celebrity. Everyone congratulated me, told me how brave I was, and showered me with attention. Then as the days progressed I became confused—wouldn’t anyone do this for their loved one? The process had been explained to me, risks, death, and everything, but wouldn’t everyone at least try to save their dad’s life. I guess not. I was not a hero. In fact I was angry at myself. I was not doing this for my dad, but for myself, because the thought of living without him was...


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pp. 21-24
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