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Patient Stories

Website’s creation inspires living liver organ donation

liver donation

Facing liver cancer, Rob knew his best chance for survival was a liver transplant from a living donor.

Rob’s cancer treatment had already included chemoembolization. But he knew if the cancer spread beyond his liver that a liver transplant – from a living or deceased donor – would no longer be an option.

“That’s when my friends and family said we need to look for a living donor,” said Rob, noting that if placed on a list for a deceased donor, he would not know how long that wait might be. With support of his wife and friends, a Facebook page and website were created to spread the word of Rob’s condition and need for a living liver donor. Ryan, one of those involved in the mini campaign to share Rob’s story, helped to create a website for Rob.

As he would come to learn more about Rob’s condition and that the two shared the same blood type (not always required for transplant), “it kind of planted a seed in my head,” Ryan said. Ryan starting thinking more about organ donation and the possibility of becoming Rob’s donor. One night he shared with his wife about his work on a website for Rob and his own interest in organ donation, which he said she backed.

center for living organ donor rob and donor ryan

Rob and Ryan

“That’s all I needed was her 100 percent support,” said Ryan, who called Yale New Haven Transplantation Center the next day. “Once I decided to call I just wanted this to happen, as soon as possible.”

Ryan soon joined other potential donors for testing. Then he got the call that he was selected to be a donor. Before the transplant surgeries, at an event staged by family and friends, Ryan shared with Rob, who he had met once before, that he would be his liver transplant donor.*

The successful liver transplant surgery occurred June 2017 at Yale New Haven Hospital. During living donor transplant surgery only a portion of the donor’s liver is removed and the remaining lobe of the donor’s liver regenerates fully.

“Once I was recovered I was feeling great,” said Ryan, a runner who completed his fourth half-marathon in October 2017, just four months to the day of surgery.

“It became my goal to finish that race for recovery.” In 2018, Ryan completed a full marathon. Rob and Ryan now team up regularly to share their story with Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Living Organ Donors patients seeking living organ donors. Rob said he was very fortunate to have found a donor in Ryan and to be able to share their story and good health is powerful.

* Yale New Haven Transplantation Center does not introduce a living organ donor and recipient to each other until after surgery and only if mutually agreed upon by both patients.