All I Want for Christmas is – A New Liver
By Ken K. Gourdin
The human liver is a remarkable organ. To be sure, the body has its other marvels which may eclipse the liver’s remarkableness in various ways: for instance, the heart and the brain, to name the two most important, come to mind. The liver certainly isn’t at the top of anyone’s list. It’s obvious that one cannot function without a heart or without a brain, but, the liver?
Then again, the liver is remarkable in ways that even the heart and the brain, wondrous as they are, cannot match. We may take the liver’s effective functioning for granted – until it no longer functions so well and the consequences of such ineffective functioning become readily apparent. Perhaps someone should ask Salt Lake City resident Betty Garcia about those consequences.
In order for an organ such as the heart to benefit another human being (will brain transplants ever be possible? Unlikely, perhaps, but never say “never”), its original user must have stopped using it – which is a delicate way of attempting to say that the original user must have passed on.
While the donor of a heart must have passed on in order to donate the organ, not so with the liver. Fortunately for Garcia’s daughter, Rachel Garcia-Trujillo, provided all goes well in the course of such a transplant, the donor’s passing is not a prerequisite for performing it.
The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself when part of it is removed. While a suitable living donor can provide a kidney to a recipient in need of one, that’s only possible because one can survive with one kidney. And while the brain and the heart can adapt, to a certain extent, to injuries that limit their function, it is the liver’s remarkable regenerative quality that sets this story of (partial) organ transplantation apart.
The surgery was recently performed at Intermountain Medical Center, in the Salt Lake suburb of Murray. In the episode “The Interview” of the television series M*A*S*H, in which newsman Clete Roberts interviews the members of the 4077th, Max Klinger (Jamie Farr) says of his colleagues, “They give back life,” and asks, “Can you do better?” So it is with Rachel and Betty: the former gave the latter her life back.
The story, in the December 17, 2014 edition of the Deseret News (linked below and last accessed that date), can be found here:
The story quotes a member of the transplant team: “‘There is no greater act of courage and kindness and love than to donate an organ,’ said Willem Van der Werf, one of the transplant surgeons on the team at Intermountain Medical Center.”
I doubt Betty could have asked for a better (albeit early – the surgery was performed on Veteran’s Day, which is fitting, because Rachel is a veteran) Christmas gift. Want to give someone his life back? Consider becoming an organ donor.