Living donors help ease the transplant waiting list

4:55 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- In 2004, while Chris Wagner was serving his country in Iraq, an Army physical discovered a problem with his liver.

"It found that I had an illness called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or PSC. It attacks the bile ducts in and around the liver. It's an autoimmune illness," Chris says.

It also meant he would eventually require a liver transplant. But the wait wouldn't be easy.

"Sixteen thousand people on the waiting list are in need of a liver transplant. Of those, yearly, we perform about 6,000. Ten to 20 percent waiting for a liver die," says Cleveland Clinic transplant surgeon Frederico Aucejo.

That's why the Cleveland Clinic is one of 10 centers in the country doing living donor liver transplants. Chris' family was tested, and his sister-in-law, Mollie Moreland, was a match.

"It's the ultimate gift, the fact that she was willing to do this for me, save my life, keep me around for my young children and my young wife, what can you say? She's basically my hero," Chris says.

Mollie is also a nurse who understands the need.

"I just kept praying about it. I knew our family would never be the same without him. If I was a match, how could I not?" Mollie says.

The surgery was a success, and both Chris and Mollie are now spreading the word about living organ donation.  

"In reality, you end up saving two lives. You save the person you're donating the liver to and the person behind them on the transplant list," Chris says.

They also started Ohio's first chapter of Living Organ Donors Foundation to help offset the financial costs a living donor might incur.

Learn more about organ, eye and tissue donation at Lifebanc

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