Feb 12, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Diana Behunin

Dr. Terry Box, a liver transplant physician at the University of Utah, is a prime example of how to make the most out of life. As a Liver Transplant Hepatologist since 1986, it came as a shock to learn that the roles had been reversed and he now needed a liver transplant. In 1999 Dr. Box learned that he had a tumor on his liver. Three years later, after putting aside his own care, rationalizing that his patients were much sicker than he was, he finally accepted that something was seriously wrong. Due to his knowledge about the number of people waiting for a liver transplant at that time (~18,000 candidates) and the number of donor livers available (~6,000 annually) Dr. Box was reluctant to be listed, but was in time listed and received his new liver in October 2002. 

Dr. Box now has a unique and intimate point of view while treating his patients. "Many patients are fearful that they will never have a normal life after transplant," says Box. "Nothing is as compelling as telling my patients, "I've been there too, and I know it can be done.'"

In the 11 years since his lifesaving transplant, Dr. Box has returned to his active life of long distance biking, running and practicing medicine. In his own words, “Having been through the experience, I can relate to my patients on a personal level and also inspire them to lead active lives.” One example of his inspiration is his participation in the 2010 and 2012 Transplant Games of America. The Transplant Games of America is a semi-annual event where transplant recipients, organ donors and families of organ donors can come together to celebrate the gift of life by participating in a number of Olympic-style games. Dr. Box has brought home multiple medals in both Games in which he has participated. And he and his fellow team members on Team Utah/Idaho, were presented with the Champions Cup at the end of the 2012 Games for winning the most medals per participant.

"I've been 'loaned' a very precious treasure, and I intend to do everything I can to return it in the same condition I received it," says Box. "That's my personal commitment to honor my donor and donor family." Dr. Box says he doesn't know of anyone who's taken up a new sport as a result of his activities. "But I know several patients who have been very reassured by my quality of life and have themselves returned to full health." And, for Box, that's the silver lining.

For more information about this year’s Transplant Games of America or to join Team Utah Idaho please visit www.teamutahidaho.org or check us out on Facebook.

Diana Behunin

Diana Behunin is a Quality Improvement Coordinator with University of Utah Health's Solid Organ Transplant Program.


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