Woman becomes living donor for brother-in-law - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Woman becomes living donor for brother-in-law

Liver transplant with living donor. (Source: WOIO) Liver transplant with living donor. (Source: WOIO)
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It is the time of year when we think about all there is to be thankful for and with that one local family couldn't be more grateful for the latest in organ
donation. It allowed a young woman to save her brother in law's life. 

While most livers for transplant come from deceased donors, this is one of those less common cases where it comes from a healthy 'living' donor.' It’s an example how 3-D technology makes transplant surgeries more precise than ever.

Army veteran Chris Wagner, 37,  didn't realize the fight of his life would occur off the battlefield. He was fighting a chronic disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis and it was slowly destroying his liver.

His doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Nizar Zein, says “the only cure, or the only actual way he will live to be an old man, is gonna be liver transplantation."  Chris was told his best chance was to find someone willing to donate part of their liver, a living donor.

He explains “it's a humbling experience when you're looking for a live donor and family members actually start to volunteer because it is a dangerous procedure for them." That’s when Mollie, his sister-in-law, stepped up, “looking at a life without him and it just wasn't a possibility so something had to be done."

After several rounds of testing, Mollie and Chris learned they were a match. During the surgery doctors took about 60-percent of Mollie’s liver and gave it to Chris. They explain “you can split the liver into 2 pieces and both pieces can regenerate like normal size." During the operation, surgeons used a special 3-d liver model – an exact replica of Mollie’s liver – that allows them to see inside the organ before a single cut is made.  They say “we can see all the relationship of blood vessels and bile ducts within a segment of the liver to determine optimal way of doing the surgery."

Both patients did well and Chris’s condition improved hours later. He remembers “that was something everyone thought was pretty remarkable, how much better you look immediately." Mollie says “seeing him healthy was…it's a relief to not have to worry about
that anymore." 

The two keep on counting their blessings too. Chris recently celebrated 2 years with his new liver, no signs of rejection. Mollie recently welcomed her new baby girl.

In the U.S. 16,000 people are waiting for livers, only 6,000 will get them.

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