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With Weeks to Live, Donald Receives a Life-Saving Liver Transplant

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LEARN ABOUT HIS SURPRISING AND LIFE-THREATENING DIAGNOSIS

Donald, diagnosed with chronic liver disease, received a liver transplant at Temple.

For 20 years, Donald S. lived alone and worked in the oil and gas industry in a remote part of Alaska. A Philadelphia-area native, he returned home in 2018 to be closer to family and friends.

Just a year later, a substance use disorder that had grown over the decades caught up with him. It was a problem that would require a life-saving liver transplant.

“I’ve had a lot of ‘me’ time in my life,” says Donald, who now acknowledges his isolated lifestyle probably played a role in the unhealthy relationship he developed with alcohol.

“I can look back on every aspect of my life and think about what I would have done differently. But everything I did, I did consciously,” he says.

A surprising and life-threatening diagnosis

In 2019, Donald woke up one morning feeling bloated. A neighbor commented that he looked yellow. Donald didn’t see it in his reflection, but he still drove himself to the St. Luke’s University Hospital emergency room in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Once there, he was promptly admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with chronic liver disease. Then came the truly devastating news: Without a new liver, he didn’t have long to live — maybe a few weeks at most.

Donald underwent an emergency procedure that temporarily relieved some of the urgent concerns associated with his condition. Soon after that surgery, he was transferred to Temple University Hospital – Main Campus and placed on the list for a liver transplant. St. Luke’s and Temple have an innovative partnership where patients receive most of their care at St. Luke’s and their transplant surgery at Temple.

I had come to terms with the very real possibility that I was going to die. — Donald

Fortunately for him, within 9 hours of being added to the list, a liver became available and Donald underwent a successful transplant.

A new lease on life

Today, Donald feels better than he has in 30 years. He's in recovery and the liver transplant has given him a new lease on life.

“I began seeing a counselor as soon as I left the hospital, and I continue to see that person regularly,” he says. “It’s been very healthy for me. I’m spending more time interacting socially, visiting friends and family, and getting out of my comfort zone.” He also finds joy in helping out on his sister and brother-in-law's Finally Farm.

Since his transplant, Donald has visited Temple several times to thank his care team. “I like to bring doughnuts to the nurses on the third floor, just to show my gratitude,” he says.

Donald feeding the animals on his farm

My doctors have been a great supporting cast for me throughout the whole process.

Donald

Donald also cites the surgeons on his transplant team — Antonio Di Carlo, MD, Kelvin Lau, MD and Sunil Karhadkar, MD.

“My experience at Temple was nothing but amazing,” Donald says. “My doctors have been a great supporting cast for me throughout the whole transplant process. I feel like I have a personal relationship with each one of them. I never worried about a thing. I was always well-informed, and that really helped put me at ease.”

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