Living Liver Transplant Reignites Patient’s Life
It was an unimaginable gift from Erin Roberts’ brother-in-law that changed her life. “Are you ready to get a new liver?” Henry O’Loughlin asked Erin and her husband, Jake.
Roberts was diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis in 2018 at age 38, a chronic and progressive condition that destroys bile ducts in the liver and can ultimately cause liver failure. By age 41, Roberts’ healthy, active, sports-centered lifestyle morphed into extreme fatigue, sickness and pain. “I felt so sick every single day, and I was usually in bed before my kids were,” Roberts said. “They would come in and say goodnight to me.”
But Roberts’ Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score wasn’t yet high enough to qualify for a deceased liver transplant, even though her quality of life had drastically diminished. That’s when she learned about UC San Diego Health’s “live liver donation program” that gave her newfound hope. Roberts’ sister, Shannon O’Loughlin, wasn’t a match for the living liver donation she so desperately needed – but it turned out her husband was.
The UC San Diego Health Center for Transplantation is a national hub of clinical expertise and research and is the region’s leader in transplantation. More than 60% of O’Loughlin’s liver was removed and transplanted to replace Roberts’ liver. The liver has a unique capacity to regenerate, and O’Loughlin was up for the challenge. “I felt like the right person for the job,” O’Loughlin said. “It’s an endless well of joy seeing Erin do so well.”
“Just the disbelief that Henry has done this for me – the selflessness of it, I just feel like I have my very own personal superhero,” Roberts said.
Learn more about liver transplantation at UC San Diego Health.
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