Real Patients, Real Stories

Lynn Clark/Liver Transplant



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It’s been a long 36 years for Lynn Clark, 57, who has felt “rundown and exhausted” for much of his adulthood. The Hyrum man’s troubles began after a car accident in 1980 led him to receive a blood transfusion. He wouldn’t discover until 2005 that the plasma was contaminated with hepatitis C, which caused cirrhosis and, finally, end-stage liver disease. He’d need a transplant to survive.

Unfortunately, the wait list for a liver is long, and many patients die before they reach the top. But a new hope — living-donor transplant — is arising for patients with liver failure who have a generous loved one.

“No hesitation,” said Lynn’s son, Jason Clark, 28, of Logan, of his reaction to finding out he was a match. “It’s been really hard watching him not be able to do those things he could do when we were kids, like being able to get up and walk around and play with us. So, knowing we’re going to be able to fix that and get him active again, it’s worth it to me.”

On February 16, Jason gave about 60% of his liver to his father during historic back-to-back surgeries led by Robin Kim, M.D., chief of the University of Utah Health's Division of Transplantation and Advanced Hepatobiliary Surgery. It was the first adult-to-adult, living-donor liver transplant performed at the University of Utah Health and opens the door for more families languishing on the wait list.

“It’s very trying for a family to watch their loved one slowly break down, knowing that getting a liver is so competitive,” Kim said. “We as an institution decided that this is not acceptable for our patients.”

Utahns have unique disadvantages in the cutthroat world of organ transplantation. The state, along with California and three other neighboring states, is part of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Region 5, which, as of November, 2015, had the longest wait list for a liver transplant of any of the 11 regions in the U.S.

Living-donor transplant surgery is risky but, faced with a dispiriting organ shortage, it’s a risk many people are willing to take — and U of U Health leaders have decided that families should be given the option to decide for themselves.

On the morning of the surgery, Jason, a father of 3 with another on the way, arrived at University Hospital wearing a T-shirt made by his wife, Naomi, which read in iron-on letters: “Of course I’m an organ donor…Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?!” He and his dad held liver-shaped pillows as they chatted with family before the operations.

“I’m glad it’s finally here,” Lynn said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time.”

Lynn’s days on the sidelines may soon be over. The surgery was a success, and Kim expects Lynn to begin feeling much better almost immediately. The grandfather is looking forward to seeing what his body is capable of.

“Across the street from where we live, there’s a grassy area,” Lynn said. “We used to go out and play baseball. I could go out and watch but I couldn’t participate. Maybe I’ll be able to participate again.”

A day after the surgery, Jason and Lynn were already up walking around. It will take about two months for Jason’s liver to regenerate to 90 percent of its former size.

“Without organ donation, transplantation does not exist,” Kim said. “There is no bigger gift than donation, except perhaps donating as a live donor in which you undergo a procedure to save another person’s life.”

Indeed, the bond is strong between father and son and is likely to grow even stronger.

“I’ll always have part of my son with me,” said Lynn, just moments before Jason was wheeled into the operating room.


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