- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

MURRAY, Utah (AP) - Lorenzo Swank owns a software development and project management company. He went on regular trips to Korea. But his health problems began 11 years ago and worsened until he couldn’t ignore them any longer.

“I could not sleep on the flight. I could not sit down on the flight,” said 31-year-old Swank.

His doctors gave him the diagnosis: liver failure. “My heart dropped. I could feel the blood draining from my face again and I thought, ‘There are all these things in life I’m not going to be able to do,’” he said.

He had primary sclerosing cholangitis, which slowly damages the bile ducts in the liver. Doctors put him on the transplant list, reported KSL-TV (https://bit.ly/2k58I2w).

“And I waited in a lot of pain from May until September, worried as I got closer and closer to that time that there wouldn’t be a transplant for me,” Swank said.

This year over 13,000 people will be added to the liver transplant waiting list of around 17,000 people, according to experts at Intermountain Medical Center. Only 7,000 received a transplant in 2016. About 1,500 people die each year while waiting and another 1,700 get removed from the list for getting too sick to survive a transplant.

Dr. Richard Gilroy, of Intermountain Medical Center, said, “We had three perfect storms. We had a deteriorating patient with fluid, a deteriorating patient with yellowness and lastly we had a marker suggesting he had cancer.”

Last September, Lorenzo was still waiting for a transplant. “I was pretty sure I was going to die that day,” he said.

Gilroy presented him with an option: accept a liver from a deceased donor who had hepatitis C. Ironically, hepatitis C is the most common reason people need a liver transplant. But doctors chose one from a younger donor whose liver didn’t have scarring. It would be the first time ever in the U.S.

“I thought, ‘OK, we have a pathway. I like this. Let’s go forward,’” Swank said.

The surgery was a success.

“After the transplant you have a lot of time to think and I thought, ‘This is really a second chance at life,’” he said.

Now Lorenzo had hepatitis C as well. He took medications for three weeks to cure him. And at his most recent check-up, his liver was as good as new. “What we see is a normal appearing liver,” Gilroy said. “You go from being completely sick and completely tired all the time to having a new liver. And even if that liver is fighting hepatitis C even a little bit, it’s better than you’ve known your entire life.”

Just two weeks after transplant, Swank went hiking in Park City.

Gilroy said, “It’s fantastic to be part of a process where you give people back what they lost.”

Lorenzo’s real moment of triumph was just days after his transplant when he walked outside in the rain. “I sat down right in front of the fountain and the rain just poured on me, and I just cried because I was alive, and I was feeling the rain,” he said. “I knew I was gonna live.”

One other patient at IMC has had the same transplant surgery and is doing well. Lorenzo hasn’t had any complications.

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Information from: KSL-TV, https://www.ksl.com/

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