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Former YNHH employee Angella Haughton (right) and Judi Edwards met for the first time in May. In February, Edwards donated part of her liver to Haughton.  

Former employee tells life-saving stranger, “You are amazing”

Decked out in an orange dress and matching shoes, holding a bouquet, Angella Haughton might have looked a little out of place in the Yale Physicians Building fourth-floor conference room.

But the people with her understood how special this occasion was, just as they understood why Haughton needed a minute, and a deep breath, before meeting the person she was waiting for.

That person was Judi Edwards of South Glastonbury, who in February donated part of her liver to Haughton. On May 27, the two met for the first time in the conference room at the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center. They greeted each other and immediately embraced. 

“You have no idea what this means,” Haughton said through tears. “I thank you so much.”

“I was happy to do it,” Edwards said. “How are you feeling?”

“I feel amazing,” Haughton said, as her two daughters, Shelrica and Chanice, dabbed at their eyes. 

Haughton, formerly a Yale New Haven Hospital surgical technician, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) in 2012. Experts don’t know why PSC occurs but believe genetics and patients’ immune responses may contribute. The disease causes inflammation, scarring and, eventually, liver failure. 

Gastroenterologist Cary Caldwell, MD, had been treating Haughton’s slowly progressing PSC, but the damage reached a point where a liver transplant was the only cure. Unable to find an organ donor match among family members and friends, Haughton went on the transplant waiting list nearly three years ago. Like others on the list, her best chance of receiving an organ was from a living donor. 

Haughton waited, continuing to work 10-hour shifts in the OR as long as she could. She relied on faith, family and friends to get her through the difficult times, including a previously scheduled surgery with another donor that fell through.

“I said, ‘OK, God, I know there’s a reason for this,’” Haughton recalled. 

“Your faith is impeccable,” Edwards said, after Haughton shared her story.

Edwards has her own remarkable story. Just over a year before, she became an altruistic organ donor – donating one of her kidneys to a person she’d never met and knew nothing about. That experience inspired her to donate part of her liver; and staff with Yale New Haven Hospital’s Living Organ Donors program and Transplantation Center matched her with Haughton.

On Feb. 24, surgeons removed 70 percent of Edwards’ liver and transplanted it into Haughton. Edwards’ surgeons were Ramesh Batra, MD, surgical director, Liver Transplantation, and David Mulligan, MD, director, Yale New Haven Transplantation Center and chief of Transplant Surgery and Immunology, Yale Medicine. Haughton’s surgeons were Danielle Haakinson, MD, and Bartholomew Kane, MD, PhD. 

Typically a donor’s and recipient’s livers will grow back to full size within six to eight weeks. Edwards’ recovery went smoothly; and while Haughton experienced some initial complications, she is better now. 

She and Edwards thanked the Transplantation Center and Center for Living Organ Donors teams, some of whom joined them in the conference room. Edwards’ husband, Matthew, was also part of the joyous occasion. 

Haughton assured the couple that they and their teen-aged daughter now have an extended family.

“I don’t know how you feel about Jamaican food, but you are a part of this family now,” Haughton said, prompting laughter. “You are amazing, and I hope God will continue to bless you.”

Learn more about becoming a living organ donor and Yale New Haven’s Transplantation services.

Members of Yale New Haven’s Transplantation Center and Center for Living Organ Donors joined family members for the joyous occasion, including, front row, (l-r): Lisa Hughes, RN, transplant coordinator; altruistic donor Judi Edwards; liver recipient Angella Haughton; her daughters Chanice and Shelrica; Danielle Haakinson, MD; and Luwan Durant, associate transplant coordinator. Back row (l-r) are: Matthew Edwards, Judi’s husband; Cary Caldwell, MD; Giffrey Babas, RN, transplant nurse coordinator; Michael Joyce, LCSW; Lenore Hammers, LCSW; and Jason Lederman, associate liver donor coordinator.