NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – There are more than 17,000 people on the list currently waiting for a donated liver. But sadly, more than 1,500 people die each year waiting for a liver donor. It’s a complex procedure, and Yale New Haven Hospital is among the centers with a living donor transplant program.
Time was running out for Matt Ragaini, with a diseased liver making him sick.
“I was very sick, fatigued. I didn’t feel good. I was gaining fluid in my stomach,” Ragaini said.
Waiting for a liver donor was his only option, and a shortage of donors though dimmed his outlook.
His wife Jennifer was determined. “I had to save him,” she said. “He was really sick. It was getting really scary.”
Her husband was against her donating a portion of her own liver. “I said no way, we can’t both be in the hospital with an 8 year old daughter,” he said.
But the testing was conclusive.
“The MRI came back, said Jennifer Ragaini, “And I was the perfect size liver for him.”
A month and a half out, both of them are recovering well.
“It’s like night and day. I feel 100 percent better, ” said Matt Ragaini.
An experienced team at Yale-New Haven Hospital led by Dr. David Mulligan – along with Dr. AnnMarie Liapakis transplanted the right lobe of Jennifer’s liver.
Dr. Mulligan said, “We’ve learned with experience that centers that have had mroe than 15 living donor liver transplants and have had experienced teams that can take care of the patients that go through this very complex procedure, they can have extremely good outcomes than what we see from deceased donor transplants.”
The liver is an organ that regenerates.
“It regenerates, said Dr. Mulligan, “Both in the donor who gives up the part and the recipient who receives the part.”
Key to saving patients like Matt Ragaini, raising awareness for the need of living and cadaver donors in Connecticut.
Dr. Liapakis said, “Unfortunately at the present time our patients in CT are probably the sickest across the US at the time they are transplanted.”
Timing is just as important. She stressed, “I think the important thing is to help patients understand the reality that they are facing. That the risk of death is high if they have to wait til they get sicker.”
“It’s a big thank you. She’s the love of my life,” said Matt Ragaini as the two share a kiss. hsy sam” . They share a kiss. She saved my life. He is my life.”
Patients on the waiting list are ranked based on need.
Dr. Mulligan is pushing to fine tune the process to find that balance of getting the organ to the sickest patients while also benefiting those who can get a transplant earlier when they are healthier and can better undergo the surgery.
Tuesday night, The American Liver Foundation of Connecticut is hosting the annual Flavors of Connecticut — raising money for prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.
For more information on event and how to become a donor, log onto http://www.liverfoundation.org/flavorsofct