FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DETROIT – Surgeons at the Henry Ford Transplant Institute successfully performed the center’s 100th living donor liver transplant on Monday, June 12, Henry Ford Health System announced today.
Susan Cowles, 63, of the Saginaw area, received the section of liver from her cousin and goddaughter, Joyce Gendron, 48, of Bryan, Ohio, near Toledo, in a 9.5-hour transplant at Henry Ford Hospital.
“She’s saved my life, is what she did,” a grateful Susan said from her hospital bed two days after surgery.
To remove the organ in a living donor liver transplant, surgeons delicately cut the donor’s liver in half. They re-attach vital vessels to assure proper blood flow to the remaining liver, which will slowly grow back to its original size. To see a hologram of how this is done, visit http://www.henryfordweb.com/SplitLiver/index.html.
In the recipient, surgeons then remove the diseased liver and replace it with the healthy section of donor liver, which also will eventually grow back to normal size. The first living donor liver transplant at Henry Ford Hospital – the first adult-to-adult procedure to take place in Michigan – occurred in December 2000.
“Living donor liver transplant truly offers the gift of life in a regenerative, life-affirming technique,” says Joyce’s surgeon, Marwan Abouljoud, M.D., director of the Henry Ford Transplant Institute and a world-renowned liver surgeon. “In addition to saving the life of the recipient, a living donor liver transplant also allows another liver from a deceased donor to be used to save someone else’s life. Living donors truly are angels on earth.”
Dr. Abouljoud, who removed Joyce’s liver in a six-hour surgery that began at 8 a.m., said the delicate procedure is very safe for both the donor and the recipient. Atsushi Yoshida, M.D., Henry Ford Surgical Director for Liver Transplant who began transplanting the liver into Susan at 11:30 a.m. and finished at 5:30 p.m., said both are carefully evaluated to make sure their health and anatomy are perfectly matched for a successful transplant.
“Our expertise as one of the leading liver transplant centers in the United States allows us to draw on our doctors’ vast well of knowledge regarding transplant, particularly liver transplant,” says Dr. Yoshida. “We are honored to offer such a high level of medical treatment in Detroit, to patients who come here from all over Michigan and the country.”
Susan Cowles found out her liver was not functioning after she walked out of her house and onto the porch of her home in northern Michigan in January 1999. The sunshine, sparkling on the snow in Onaway, also lit up her face.
“My son said, ‘Mom, you’re all yellow!’” she remembers. “He called out to my husband, ‘Come see Mom!’”
The long-time registered nurse wanted to go to work at the local hospital. Her family insisted she go to the ER instead. After rounds of testing, doctors explained her liver was failing from an auto-immune disorder and she would eventually need a transplant.
Her cousin, Joyce, immediately called Henry Ford Hospital and asked if she could donate right away. As with most who need a transplant, Susan’s doctors recommended Susan keep her original liver as long as she could, as all surgeries include some risk. After Susan’s health worsened and her liver deteriorated even more, the transplant took place Monday, June 12, 2017.
“It does feel good, yes,” said Joyce, a librarian, from her hospital bed across the hall from Susan’s, two days after donating part of her liver. “She has her life back now. She was going to die without it. She can now go ahead and plan her life.”
Susan’s son, Bob Czerney, 45, of Essexville, Mich., said the entire process has astonished the family.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said from next to his mother’s bed. “To see her slowly deteriorate was heartbreaking. After the transplant, you could even see her progress throughout the day – her color improving. It’s truly amazing.”
Doctors expect Susan, who will take anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life, and Joyce to feel good within four weeks, with their livers returning to normal size within six to eight weeks. Joyce went home four days later; Susan went home 11 days later, and both are doing exceptionally well, say their doctors.
“We have seen this over and over: patients returning to their lives after transplant,” says Dr. Abouljoud. “They are able to continue their lives, go back to work, take their trip of a lifetime, see their kids grow up, enjoy grandchildren. It truly is a gift of life.”
For more information about living donor liver transplant or donation, visit https://www.henryford.com/services/transplant/liver/living-donor