Veteran City of Falls Church Planner Loren Bruce was successfully provided a liver transplant from a deceased 30 year-old donor last weekend at the University of Pennsylvania, he reported to the News-Press today.
According to a report from his companion, “In the wee hours of Sunday morning the impossible happened. Loren got a call that Penn Medicine in Philadelphia had procured a liver for him. A 70-year-old person had died of a heart attack and his liver was a match for Loren.”
He explained, “We had been working for over a year to secure a living liver donor for Loren and were getting close, but the soonest that could happen would be in September. And there was still the chance that it could fall through at the last moment. We had been through that once already. Time was of the essence.
“Loren wanted to expand the possibilities for finding a liver and had several strategies. One was to find a second hospital that accepted altruistic donors (people who don’t personally know the recipient) and one that had more lenient criteria for people wanting to apply (age, weight, prior surgeries, etc.). Consequently, for the past few months he’s been in dialogue with Johns Hopkins in Baltimore as an additional hospital.
“Secondly, he wanted to get on the list for a deceased donor. The obstacle was that his MELD score (Model for End-stage Liver Disease) was pretty low. This put him way down on the recipient list. His lower score was frustrating because his symptoms were so severe. That happens sometimes with people who do not have typical cirrhosis. So, he and his doctor were working to get him “exception points” which could raise his score and thus move him up the list. Even with that it was a long-shot but worth a try. The need is so great compared to the number of donors.
“That is why, when he got word that Penn Medicine had a liver for Loren, we were so stunned. How could this even be possible?
“A relatively healthy, 70-year-old man had died of a heart attack and his liver was a match for Loren. We had no idea that Loren was even, officially, on the list yet. But he was, and little did we know that his MELD score had been significantly raised in the last few weeks.
“Part of the process in getting on the list for a deceased donor is that you can choose to accept a less-than-perfect liver. By agreeing to this your chances for receiving a liver increase. With the doctor’s encouragement he made this choice. A 70-year-old person’s liver would fall into this category. That, plus the fact that the donor had the same, less common, blood type as Loren made him a match.
“The decision to accept this liver wasn’t as easy as you might think. He could turn it down. Our heads were spinning. What about the person who was already in process to become a living donor? There was even a second one waiting to begin the process. Wasn’t 70-years old, too old? What would the risks be with that liver? What about the risk of waiting?
“In the end it was Loren’s call. He said, “This is a no-brainer, guys. I’m getting sicker by the day! I don’t know if I can last until September and what if the potential donor falls through? We’d have to start all over. And what if one of my falls fall breaks a rib or a hip? Who knows if a transplant would even be possible. This is a no-brainer. I can’t believe it’s happening! I’m ready.”
“So on Sunday morning he, Vic, and Ed headed for Philadelphia. It was a long day of waiting. The surgery was scheduled to happen around 7 or 8 p.m. They had to be there by 11 a.m. 7 p.m. came and went. 8:00 came and went. 9:00 came and went. Finally, about 9:30 p.m. they were told that the surgery was rescheduled for 5:00 in the morning. Disappointed, but grateful for a chance to get some much needed rest, we all headed to sleep.
“However, a few hours later I got woken up with this text from Vic: “Change of plans. Loren is receiving a liver from a 30-year-old person. The person died from an overdose [probably opioids].The liver was to go to someone else, but it fell through. That is how it is going to Loren. They have done all the testing and there are no issues. I’ll keep you posted.”
“The back story is that the liver came from another hospital. The doctor said, ”It was not for our clinic nor any of our patients. We couldn’t have gotten that liver, or anything close, for Loren.” At the last minute, the other center could not use it because it was the wrong size for their patient. They had to move quickly and find another recipient in the area. They called Penn Med and asked if they could use it. Their answer was yes. Because Loren was prepped, ready, and waiting, and because their blood-types matched, he became the recipient.
“After the surgery, the doctor said, ‘he got quite lucky.’ Loren came in to get a liver from a person in their 70s, that was not the healthiest, and he got a perfect liver from a 30- year-old person. It was a total fluke (a.k.a. miracle of God). Because of Loren’s condition, and his MELD score, he should never have gotten a liver of this quality. But he “just happened” to be in the right place at the right time.
“The doctor said, “So, it’s like you got upgraded from a jalopy to a Ferrari. This is good news.”
“I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, July 15th. He’s had over 30 hours in ICU and the nurses are very encouraged by his progress! They had him sitting/reclining in a chair today. Tomorrow they plan to move him to a regular room. He’s beyond thrilled and grateful to the Lord that this opportunity came to him.”
“For those of you who know Loren, you know that he is a very special human being. A talented, tender, kind and other-centered person. Only time will reveal what what he still has yet to accomplish with his life. I, for one, can’t wait to see what that will be.”