Central Bridge Resident Gets New Liver, Another Chance at Life
June 06, 2003
Katherine Lawson was feeling good in February. The Central Bridge resident had been diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1995 but its effects on her health were minimal. Her doctors at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown consistently monitored various chemical levels in her blood, which had remained stable for many years. Yet in February, her alpha feto protein level spiked and stayed elevated, an indication that there was something wrong with Lawson’s liver function.
The 78-year-old was referred to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, where transplant surgeons Adel Bozorgzadeh, M.D., director of transplant services, and Ashok Kumar Jain, M.D., discovered she had cancer of the liver. They made a decision to place Lawson on the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) waiting list for transplant patients. With more than 17,000 patients across the United States also waiting for a donor liver, more than 2,200 in New York state alone, Lawson’s prospects for getting an organ were uncertain even though her case was a high priority due to her cancer diagnosis. Then, less than a month later, the phone rang at her Grovenors Corners Road home.
“You’re never quite ready for something like that,” Lawson says, adding that she thought she would have a little more time to get things in order before Strong Memorial Hospital located a compatible liver. “But when they call, you go.”
Because her children hadn’t arrived yet from out of state, and her husband, William, was unable to drive her to Rochester, friends volunteered to bring Lawson to Strong Memorial Hospital. The day progressed quickly, with Lawson arriving about noon, going into surgery at 2 p.m., with the operation completed successfully by early the next morning.
“Mrs. Lawson did extremely well during and after surgery,” Bozorgzadeh says. “She was lucky to have received a donor organ, thanks to the generosity of a family who gave the gift of life.”
Less than two weeks after her March 11 transplant, a healthy Lawson was discharged from the hospital and went home to Central Bridge. Active in the community, including serving as an organist at the Cobleskill Methodist Church, she plans to get back to her normal schedule as soon as possible. Her children, who reside in Washington state, Vermont, Florida, South Carolina and Colorado, will take turns during the next few months staying with her and her husband. She credits the support of her family with her already great recovery.
“I feel wonderful,” she says, adding that she’s getting used to taking about 25 medications a day to control rejection of her new liver. The health of the donor organ will be monitored for the rest of her life using blood work and periodic biopsies, with medication changes to stave off rejection. Considering the success her doctors have witnessed so far, they think she’ll have many more years to enjoy with her family.
“I know I’m very lucky,” Lawson says.
For information about organ transplantation, call (585) 275-5875. For information about organ donation, call 1-800-810-5494, or log on to www.donorrecovery.com.