“I’m so lucky I had these people (at Lahey). Right off the bat, they were amazing. They knew my story before I even met them. I can’t tell you what that feels like when you’re so sick. They’re not only the Lahey team; they’re my team.”
Independence Day weekend of 2008 brought more than fireworks for Pembroke, Mass., resident Bill Brennan. Like many of us do in the summer months, Bill decided to mow his lawn. But when he tried to make the first pull to start his lawn mower, he was so weak he couldn’t complete it. Bill had been feeling sick for months, and what he first thought was stress related, he now suspected was something much more serious. He knew he had to go to the emergency room.
Bill was rushed to a Boston hospital, where he stayed for several days. He was diagnosed with end stage liver disease, or ESLD, a condition that requires liver transplantation. One of the liver specialists on his medical team told him he was living on borrowed time and should start getting his things in order.
Fortunately, a different doctor on Bill's medical team was also a doctor at Lahey Clinic, and he brought the case to the attention of Lahey's transplant team. In April 2009, Bill came to Lahey for evaluation to see if he qualified for their transplant program, which would increase his chances of getting on the national liver transplant waiting list. By closely following the transplant team's guidelines, Bill was put on the UNOS liver transplant waiting list in late July, an event he compares to winning the marathon. But he still had another marathon to complete: waiting.
By December 2009, Bill was getting sicker. He was so lethargic he had difficulty holding his head up. On December 17, he was diagnosed with three hernias and told that the surgery to repair the hernias might kill him. He was instructed to go home that evening and wait for the hernias to "pop" before coming back to the hospital. The next morning around 8 am, he called his fiance to put her on notice that he might need to be rushed to the emergency room at any time. Fifteen minutes later, he got a phone call.
“The person on the phone said, ‘Mr. Brennan, this is your lucky day.’ I thought, oh great, a telemarketer, just what I need right now. But it turned out to be Dr. Akoad, my surgeon from Lahey, who said ‘we have a liver for you – you need to get in here right away!’”
Just like that, Bill's potentially deadly hernia operation became the liver transplant that saved his life. To his amazement, Bill was up on his feet in 24 hours. He was discharged from the hospital on December 25, 2009. Christmas night.
“It was the greatest Christmas gift I could ever have. I was alive, and nobody thought I was going to be. Every day is a miracle to me now; I have no bad days. And it’s really thanks to Lahey. They got me through this.”