Patient Story: National Donate Life Month 2023

April 27, 2023

Transplant Patients Recount Life-Saving Experience at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center

Scott Valentino was out to eat with his wife Barbara when he noticed some unusual stomach pain. It might not have been enough to raise the alarm bells, except that it followed several months of worsening health that Scott only now realizes was part of a pattern. He wasn’t sleeping well, he had trouble digesting food, and his friends noticed he was losing weight.

“It got to the point that I was forgetting things,” Scott recounted. “At times, I wasn’t even remembering where I was.”

He decided to take a trip to the emergency room, just to make sure everything was OK.

As a manager at a food service company that brings meals to schools across Massachusetts, Scott’s days were jam-packed and the words “liver transplant” weren’t anywhere near the top of his mind. That’s part of what made his diagnosis with stage 4 liver disease at just 51-years-old so shocking.

Life-Changing Diagnosis

Scott’s diagnosis had a serious impact on his quality of life. He spent the next year in and out of medical clinics, and several times he had to spend two to three nights in the hospital. Those overnight stays were necessary to safeguard his health, but there was a price: He was losing precious time with his family.
Barbara was understandably worried. Scott was her life partner and the two were inseparable. She did her best to stay by his side throughout the ordeal, but COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult to visit him in the hospital. Scott was often left to face the disease alone, and Barbara sometimes found herself in the dark on the status of his condition.

‘There Wasn’t a Second Thought’ About Donating

Scott’s doctors were honest with him about the severity of his situation from the very beginning: If he couldn’t get the transplant he needed, they would soon be having a very different conversation. Barbara, who’d been committed to Scott since the day they were married, sprung to action.

“It wasn’t even a question of trying to get tested to see if I could donate,” she said. “I didn’t even give it a second thought.”

Barbara’s decision to give Scott part of her liver meant her husband was going to get his transplant, but he still planned for the worst. He never thought he would have to make end-of-life arrangements at just 51, but now that he was forced to have those conversations with his children, he realized just how dire his situation was.

But Scott and Barbara’s healthcare team at Lahey made sure those plans were pushed out as far as possible. They were urgent but steady in their approach, making sure the couple was kept abreast of everything regarding their procedure. That honesty and transparency eased Scott and Barbara’s anxieties and convinced them they were in the right hands.

Every Day Is a Blessing

Both procedures were ultimately successful, and Scott has since gained a new lease on life. “Every day is a good day,” he said. “From doing yard work to working out to spending time with my two grandsons, I’m getting to enjoy the little things while still acknowledging the big things.”

Barbara, for her part, has no regrets about donating to her husband and urges others to do the same. “It’s almost like you’re saving someone’s life,” she said.

“You’re going to be scared, but just do it.”

April is National Donate Life Month. Every year we work to remind of patients the life-saving potential of organ donation. Visit our website today to learn more about Lahey’s organ donation program.