"Shawn first got diagnosed in February 1999, when they thought she had hepatitis A. Then other issues started to arise, so we brought her back in and had blood work done with a new doctor, who did a complete workup. They sent us up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, NH, where they diagnosed her with autoimmune hepatitis.From there, they sent us to Children's Hospital in Boston, where they did tests and determined Shawn had 25 percent liver function left. They told us she would eventually need a liver transplant. By May 2004, when the doctors agreed it was time to take that next step, Shawn had somewhat outgrown Children's Hospital, and they recommended Lahey Clinic here in Burlington. When we initially met with the team at Lahey, they started talking about doing a liver transplant, and they said, "Well, we'll do a live donor." We had no clue how the process worked, but this place is incredible. I mean...you're part of the family here. I get emotional talking about it... But when they initially started talking about the live donor transplant, they were great. They explained everything so in depth, and you didn't leave until all your questions were answered. You're well informed of what's going to go on. They explain the whole process, which just makes it so easy.I wanted to be Shawn's donor. Once the blood work showed that I would be a good match for her, it was pretty intense from that point out. The physical I went through lasted from June until about two weeks before the transplant, which was scheduled for early August. I was in here once or twice a week, doing different tests to make sure I had no other disease or anything I'd pass onto her.When you come in every week for your appointments, they're going to make sure you're comfortable before you leave and that you've covered everything. Don't be afraid to ask questions. There is no stupid question. The people here are just so professional. They make the process... it's harder to go to the dentist-if you can believe that-than to have a liver transplant! I just can't say enough about Lahey.I sat down with the doctors, and they explained to me that part of the process involves making sure you're in the right frame of mind and that you're ready to go through the surgery. They will make sure you're ready physically, mentally and emotionally to do it. They make you feel like the most important person in the world. They have so much knowledge and experience that it's just so smooth. They want to make sure you're ready to do this, right up until the end.The day of the transplant, it was just like we were coming down for a regular appointment. We came down, checked in, changed, and got the IV. Once they give you the IV, it relaxes you and that's pretty much all I remember. I don't remember anything until I woke up seven hours later. Your liver is separated into two lobes, a right and a left lobe. They took my right lobe, which is 60 percent, and they transplanted that into Shawn. That will grow back to 100 percent of the volume that she had. The 40 percent they left in me will at least double, so I'll get 80 to 90 percent of what I had before. We'll each only have one lobe, but a pretty much normal life. After the transplant, you're just exhausted. It is a pretty major operation. I can't explain how tired you are. I'm a pretty active person. I play hockey in two leagues, and I have a physical job as a firefighter in the National Guard. So I'm not one who is used to lying around. And that was somewhat frustrating, that you're just so tired. I was in the hospital for eight days. And every day, there are little things that let you know you're getting better. It's key to get up and start walking around as soon as you can.Even when I went home, the hardest thing was having no energy. I walked from my house to my neighbor's house and back with my wife, and I almost didn't make it back, I was so tired. Having a good support system around was key. My wife took time off from work, and we have two other daughters. And we had family in the area. Having that big support network helped. When the transplant happens, people will offer help. Take it-take anything they offer. People want to help and be involved. Accept any help they will give. And Lahey, you can call them any time for any question. They would call out of the blue, just to check and see how we were doing. They're just the best...The biggest thing was getting my energy back and trying to resume a normal life. I went back to work six weeks after the surgery on a limited basis, and was cleared for normal activity two months later, or about 14 weeks after surgery. It probably took about six months for me to feel 100 percent. The recovery just takes time and you have to be patient."
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Awards Lahey Clinic the Silver1 Medal of Honor for Organ Donation.