My name is Alec. I have always been a healthy, active, outgoing person. I married Megan, also a healthy, active and outgoing person. We live to be outside in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, whether we’re running, hiking, biking, skiing, golfing, or just living. I was so healthy and active, I didn’t know why I even paid for health insurance. The Spring of 2008 changed that.
I was diagnosed with PSC – a relentless disease that causes scarring and blockages in the liver’s bile ducts, killing the liver. PSC has no known cure. Only a liver transplant can save the life of those diagnosed. Upon diagnosis, I was told I’d have five to ten years until I’d need a transplant. One year later, in March of 2009, I was so sick that I could barely get out of bed.
My mind was foggy, and I was nauseous and weak around the clock. I was referred by my gastroenterologist to the Intermountain Transplant Clinic, where I was promptly listed for transplant.
I was listed April 14th, 2009. After one potential liver went to another person on the 17th, I received my new liver on April 28th.
My recovery was quick, and I was back to hiking, biking, golf, and any other activity I could think of within a few weeks post-transplant. Within a year of my transplant I ran my first marathon, something I had always wanted to do, and was mindful of my donor’s gift of life throughout the entire race.
Life was good, and it was possible through the gift of life – organ donation.
My battle with liver disease had caused some collateral damage to my colon, and due to severe ulcerative colitis and the threat of colon cancer, I had my colon removed in October 2010. Shortly thereafter, my monthly blood tests showed my liver enzymes creeping up, and a biopsy of my liver was performed. The results showed recurring PSC – the disease was back. My wife and I were initially in a state of shock, but we were not going to let this disease define us. We’d been through it once, and we could do it again.
We went about living our lives as though nothing were wrong. We had an incredible support system of family, friends, doctors, neighbors, and our belief in a God of miracles to help us through. We welcomed our first child Miles into the world in June 2011, and we couldn’t have asked for a more caring and sensitive soul as his. Miles is here, because my first donor chose to be an organ donor.
I returned from a business trip in April of 2013 to more abnormal blood tests, this time impacting my kidneys.
I was hospitalized and began the taxing process of dialysis and other kidney treatments. I’ve never felt as weak as I did during the next few months as I was in and out of the hospital. Going in to the second transplant process, I naively figured it would be similar to the first transplant process, which, in comparison to the second, was a cake walk. With the first, I was sick for a couple of weeks, transplanted, and playing golf a few weeks later. The second was far more difficult. We were sure that a liver would become available sometime soon after being listed in the Spring of 2013. Weeks and months past, and nothing became available. My kidneys rebounded in miraculous fashion, to the point that in July of 2013 I almost fell off the transplant waiting list because my blood tests looked so good.
However, my test results did not reflect how I felt, as I grew weaker by the day. My baseline body weight is usually around 150 to 160 pounds. At my weakest point I weighed 123 pounds, and I felt every pound that was lost.
Life continued this way for almost a year, until a second life-saving liver became available, and I was transplanted on May 13th, 2014.
The surgery took around 21 hours to perform, and I can’t express in words the love and admiration that I have for my surgeons, physicians and nurses who worked so hard to make sure that I could continue being a father to my son and husband to my amazing wife.
Once again, an organ donor had saved my life.
Since I had been so sick and so weak for so long before finally being transplanted, the recovery from my second transplant was difficult, but I was just grateful to be alive.
Three months following transplant we took a little family vacation down to San Diego before I was to go back to work and Miles to school. While we were there enjoying the beach and the sun, I received a call from the transplant clinic. The blood work that I had done right before we left showed signs of my body possibly rejecting my new liver. I was to have a liver biopsy done as soon as I returned from vacation. The biopsy results confirmed that my body was rejecting my new liver.
Rejection is very common with transplanted organs, as the body’s natural reaction is to fight the foreign tissue. Rejection can often be treated, and this is the battle that my physicians undertook. Several methods and medications were employed to try to fend off my rejection, but to no avail. After months of trying, we conceded that I would require a third liver transplant, and that the survival rate for such a procedure was not as high as one would hope.
Since my second transplant was so long, dangerous and difficult to perform, my doctors knew that a third attempt would be dangerous and more difficult still. What I did have going for me was my youth and my overall strength, but I think our determination as a family, along with our doctors, to keep fighting and keep living, is what gave us the most comfort on a daily basis. Our faith in God gave us strength in our darkest hours, and our faith in others’ desire to give life through organ donation saw us through everything.
I was listed again for transplant, and following several potential livers that were deemed inadequate, I went in for major transplant surgery on June 9th, 2015.
The third transplant surgery took nearly thirty hours, starting on the 9th and finishing successfully on the 10th of June.
A few additional surgeries were needed to close the surgical wound, and my long recovery began. The third transplanted liver took to my body like a warm embrace, and my blood levels have not faltered since.
I feel great, and am reminded daily of all of the love that has been poured into my life throughout our health trials. My doctors and nurses, my friends, my neighbors, and my family have all proven to be blessings in so many ways. My son Miles has been so delicate, loving and understanding as I have been so weak and frail. My wife Megan has been my rock and has been able to draw on unforeseen strength to carry our family through thick and thin.
The ultimate demonstration of love and sacrifice comes from my donors. With my first and second transplants, I have never learned who my donors were, but my love and admiration for them is unwavering. I learned who my third donor was, and I have been able to visit with her family to learn more about her and thank them for their influence on her.
Her choice, and my other donor’s choices, to be organ donors has not only given me the chance to continue living on and enjoying life, but it has also given them the opportunity to continue living on and influencing the lives of others for the better. I think that this thought can help us all to cope, both those who have lost a loved one, and those waiting for an organ, who might feel guilt that someone’s life possibly had to end in order for their life to be redeemed. This is not always the case, as living donors can also save lives. However, in my situation, I realize that three lives were lost so that I could live. I don’t take this lightly.
Not only was my life saved through organ donation, but thanks to my third donor, my wife and I were able to use in vitro fertilization to welcome our second child, little baby Samantha (Sammy), into the world.
The joy that comes from even thinking about what organ donation provides for others is immeasurable and brings me to tears. I am humbled to have been given multiple “second chances” at life, and, as I said, I don’t take these blessing lightly. Organ donation saves lives – it’s just that simple.
This is a LONG summary of our story, and I apologize for that. If you would like more detail on who we are, please feel free to check out our blog. Enjoy life! Every day is a gift!