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Indiana Woman Donates Liver to Save Brother-in-Law

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Sandy Smoljan, a healthy woman of 55, made an unusual sacrifice to save the life of her brother-in-law Al.

A few months ago she volunteered to let doctors transplant 65 percent of her liver into Al because he was suffering from end stage liver disease.

Now, with her liver regenerated (yes, livers do grow back), she has a special bond with Al and they are reminded every day because they are co-workers at the county health department in Crown Point, Indiana.

Al is married to Sandy’s older sister, Vicki. Over 30 years, Sandy has come to see him more as a brother than a brother-in-law. When Vicki told her Al’s best hope was to receive a liver from a living donor, Sandy immediately volunteered.

As she said, “I am a healthy person and if I can help another person become healthy again, I am all for it.”

But taking a liver from a living donor is not at all without risks. Death is a possibility as well as infection and a variety of complications.

So potential donors go through a lot of counseling to ensure they know what they are volunteering for. Sandy never had a question in her mind.

With the ongoing shortage of organs from people who die, living donor transplant of kidneys and livers has become more common. But there are risks.

However, it is truly a gift of life and for Sandy Smoljan, it was a gift for a dear family member she felt certain she wanted to give.

To hear Sandy tell her story and learn more from her physician, Dr. Talia Baker, Director of the Living Donor Liver Transplant Program at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, please listen to the Patient Power program, Advances in Living Donor Liver Transplant, found here: http://www.patientpower.info/program/advances-in-living-donor-liver-transplant/

About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, plus transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team.

Patient Power is at www.PatientPower.info and on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Schorr is also the author of “The Web Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis" found at www.websavvypatient.com/


Interview with Talia Baker, M.D. Director, Living Donor Liver Transplant Program, Comprehensive Transplant Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Recorded on 4/17/12 and posted to Patient Power at http://www.patientpower.info/program/advances-in-living-donor-liver-transplant

Interview with Sandra Smoljan, Liver Donor, Crown Point, Indiana, Recorded on 4/17/12 and posted to Patient Power at http://www.patientpower.info/program/advances-in-living-donor-liver-transplant

Liver Transplantation. MedlinePlus. Web. April 23, 2012

Reviewed April 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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