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Larry and Me: How donor’s liver saved my life

  • Concord residents David Moore and his wife, Aekyong, visited the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia recently. The trip comes three years after Moore received a life-saving organ donation. Courtesy



For the Monitor
Sunday, July 08, 2018

Since Larry and me first met just over three years ago, we’ve been an inseparable pair, helping one another to live the kind of lives we could never live apart. I start each day by thanking the good Lord for Larry, and when we go to bed at night I still sometimes just lie there and think about the day we first got together.

For me, life without Larry would likely be no life at all … literally.

Now before you start heading down the wrong road, here, I’d better let you know that while Larry and me may have a close physical relationship, we’ve never gone beyond that. I don’t even know Larry’s real name, don’t know where he’s from, and I’ve never met his family.

About the only thing I know for sure about Larry is that he was 40 years old when we were brought together, and that he was an organ donor.

“Larry” is the name I’ve given to the donor liver that was transplanted into me three years ago this month.

Why “Larry the Liver”? Well, partly because I liked the way it rolls off the tongue, but mostly because having a part of someone else inside your body triggers a funny set of feelings, and naming the organ seemed to put things on nice, friendly terms.

After all, my donor gave me the greatest gift one human being can give to another ... the gift of life. And knowing the price paid for the hope I received that day made me a little uneasy at first.

Grateful as all get out, of course, but a bit troubled by the process.

I kept thinking that while my family was all smiles and giggles, celebrating a second chance at life, another family was enduring the loss of a son or a brother or a father. It’s strange to think that a single event can trigger such diverse emotions, but there you go ... I guess most transplant cases end up that way.

And so I gave Larry a name and together we started down the road to recovery.

Recently, the wife and I took a long-delayed trip to Nova Scotia, exploring the finger-like bays and inlets carved into the coastline up there. And as we admired the postcard views and blazing sunsets, we couldn’t help but marvel at what an impact good old Larry had made on our lives.

Those few years prior to the transplant had been filled with test, procedures, hospital stays and fear as disease and cancer pushed my poor liver to the brink of failure. And as our family spiraled toward that do-or-die moment of transplant, we all silently wondered if I would survive the wait ... or if the line was just too long and my time just too short.

I’m telling you all this because today there are more than 114,000 people still waiting in line for their turn at a life-saving organ transplant, and a new person is added to that waitlist every 10 minutes. And while there are more than 34,000 life-saving transplants performed in the U.S. each year, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year more than 7,000 people died waiting in line.

It’s a simple supply-and-demand problem, and it doesn’t need to be that way.

While a recent U.S. Health and Human Services survey found that 95 percent of American adults support the idea of organ donation, today only 56 percent have actually registered as organ donors.

The whys range from religious beliefs that the afterlife requires a fully-equipped body to fears that doctors would allow a seriously ill or injured patient to die just so they can harvest his or her organs – something that just doesn’t happen.

I’ve had many friends tell me that they’d like to become a donor but can’t because they are either too old, or too out of shape to do it. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hardening of the arteries had disqualified them, they’d say.

According to the New England Organ Bank, just about everybody out there can be an organ donor. The youngest recorded donor was just 100 minutes old, and the oldest U.S. donor donated his liver just nine days shy of his 93rd birthday. In fact, two years ago, a 107-year-old Scottish woman donated her corneas, making her that country’s (and possibly the world’s) oldest donor.

Disease and disability do not automatically disqualify you from becoming a donor, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as doctors evaluate the suitability of tissue and organs at the time of death.

So, the basic rule should be for everybody to go ahead and register and let the doctors sort things out after you’ve moved along to whatever comes next.

Possible organ donations include the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys and small intestines.

Tissue donations include skin, corneas, heart valves and veins. Bone, tendons and ligaments also can be used in reconstructive surgeries. In fact, a single organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people!

So you see, you’ve got a lot to offer the world on your way out of it.

Registration is easy. Most states let you register online through the Department of Motor Vehicles (and will designate that decision on your driver license), you can sign up at organdonor.gov, and there’s even a donor registration button on Facebook.

The New England Organ Bank recommends that you also tell family and friends about your donation decision; tell your family doctor; include donation wishes in your advance directives, will and living will.

To those readers who’ve already designated themselves as organ donors, I offer you my sincere thanks. And for those of you who either haven’t yet decided or have been meaning to get to it, I’d just remind you of the 20 people who are dying each day waiting for you to make up your minds.

So I’m urging you to follow good old Larry’s example and become an organ donor. I can tell you from personal experience that the gift you leave behind will never be forgotten.

(David Moore lives in Concord.)