Transplantation is a modern medical wonder in which a donor and his or her family seek to give life through the altruistic donation of one or several organs to a stranger. The donor and the family do not receive compensation for this gift. They want others to live; they want the death of their loved one to give life. The generosity of donors and their families and the impact they can have on very sick patients is often stunningly emotional and humbling to liver recipients.
The decision to have a liver transplant is a serious one. With end stage liver disease you will not get better because your liver is failing. A transplant trades a serious chronic condition that can be fatal for another chronic condition that can be managed. Survival rates for liver transplant are generally high. Nevertheless, transplantation is major surgery and has a several-month recovery. You should discuss your situation with your family, friends, and spiritual advisor. They will be involved in your transplant journey. Click here to review some questions you should ask regarding the surgery and your decision.
After liver transplant, however, for most people, quality of life resumes to nearly normal. Many patients say they feel better just hours after waking up from surgery. Recovery can take months, but they feel the surgery was worth it. One of our board members, Chris Klug, won Olympic medals for snowboarding just 18 months after his transplant. Another of our board members attends annual Transplant Games competitions and enjoys the athletic effort and his victory over illness. Most PSC liver recipients go back to their lives, grateful they’re able to enjoy a second chance at living. Some recipients may have other health issues to deal with as a result of the transplant. Talk to your doctor about what life could be like after this surgery, considering your related health conditions.
Although the prospect of transplant surgery is understandably difficult and frightening to contemplate, UNOS, the national organization that regulates transplant activities, reports that recent trends are positive. The MELD system, described in the next section, has reduced waiting time to transplant in most parts of the country. The number of livers donated nationwide is increasing, resulting in more transplants, while the likelihood of dying while on the waiting list has decreased. Finally, the survival rates for deceased and living donor recipients are similarly high.