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liver donor sought

Angella Haughton, a surgical tech in the North Pavilion ORs, is seeking a liver donor to help her beat a progressive disease. Her best chance of receiving a liver is from a living donor, who could give a portion of his or her liver. The donor’s and Haughton’s livers would grow back to full size within six to eight weeks. 


Awaiting an organ donor, employee works hard and keeps the faith 

Until now, many of Angella Haughton’s coworkers had no idea she has been on the waiting list for a liver transplant for the past two years.

“They probably wouldn’t have believed it,” she said with a laugh.

Haughton works full time as a surgical technician in Yale New Haven Hospital’s North Pavilion operating rooms, spending 10-hour days, four days a week, on her feet. She is also consistently upbeat, despite dealing with the side effects of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). 

The cause of PSC is unclear, but experts believe genetics and patients’ immune responses may contribute. PSC is characterized by inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. The scarring narrows the ducts, causing bile to back up into and damage the liver. Haughton was diagnosed with PSC in 2012, after a surgeon removing her gallbladder noticed some liver changes. She was referred to gastroenterologist Cary Caldwell, MD, who also specializes in liver disease and transplant. 

For several years, Dr. Caldwell treated the slowly progressing disease and symptoms that include fatigue, jaundice and weight loss. Two years ago, he told Haughton it was time for her to connect with the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center and get on the waiting list for a liver. 

“I was surprised,” she said. “That was the last thing I expected to hear at my appointment.”

Liver transplant is the only cure for PSC, which eventually can lead to liver failure, infections and tumors. Surgeons can transplant the entire liver from a deceased donor, but Haughton’s best chance of getting a liver is from a living donor, said Kara Ventura, DNP, patient services manager, Liver Transplant Program. In that situation, surgeons remove a portion of the donor’s liver and transplant it into the recipient. Within six to eight weeks, the donor’s and recipient’s livers will grow back to full size. 

Haughton’s family members are either not a match for transplant or have health conditions that make them ineligible to donate a portion of their liver. Haughton’s two grown daughters have reached out to friends in the hopes of finding a donor. Hesitant at first to let coworkers know about her condition, Haughton changed her mind after talking to her family and Dr. Caldwell.

“I told her, ‘This is a kind of networking,’” Dr. Caldwell said. “Now that people know, they can offer a hand, or a hug, or possibly become a donor.” 

In the meantime, Haughton relies on family, faith and the work she loves to help her through the difficult times – along with her trademark optimism. Though nearly 12,000 people nationwide and more than 180 in Connecticut are on the transplant list awaiting a liver, Haughton is confident she will find a donor. 

 “I believe in the science of medicine, and I trust in God,” she said. “No matter how hard it seems, there is always a way.”


To learn more about becoming a living organ donor, visit www.ynhh.org/services/transplantation/center-for-living-organ-donors