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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Live Donor Transplant Debuts At The U With Son-Father Liver Donation


Jason Clark walked into the hospital on Feb. 16 excited, donning a shirt with a liver on it and printed words saying, “Of course I’m an organ donor. Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?” About 12 hours later, he donated about 60 percent of his liver, saving his father’s life.

Jason and his father Lynn Clark participated in U Health Care’s first live liver transplant, performed by Robin Kim, chief of the Division of Transplantation and Advanced Hepatobiliary Surgery. Both Jason and Lynn are back home and recovering, and the successful transplant marks another step the U is taking to become a destination for those needing organ transplants, Kim said.

“Only four percent of all liver transplant programs in the United States are performed by live donor transplantations,” Kim said. “It puts us in the highest echelon of world-class liver transplant programs in not only the U.S., but in the world.”

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The United Network for Organ Sharing gave the U approval last September to perform live liver transplants. Kim, who has performed pediatric live liver transplants through Primary Children’s Hospital, said the U’s infrastructure and successful transplant program made the approval possible.

Lynn, the recipient of the transplant, contracted Hepatitis C after a car accident over 35 years ago led to an unscreened blood transfusion. Clark recently became aware of his condition and discovered his liver was failing, said Heather Thiesset, manager of the Division of Transplantation and Advanced Hepatobiliary Surgery. He was placed on the waiting list before someone with U Health Care asked if he knew of anyone who would donate a part of their liver. Lynn’s son Jason was the only match of Lynn’s three children and did not hesitate to help.

When Thiesset spoke with Jason about his decision to donate some of his liver, Jason explained that his own grandfather was too sick for him to get to know and “he doesn’t want that same thing for his children.”

“That is why he was willing to undergo that risk — so that his children can know his father,” Thiesset said.

U Health Care has performed countless liver transplants from deceased donors, as well as surgeries to remove tumors from the liver. While deceased donor transplants work well, sick individuals can be on a waiting list for years before they find a match and are chosen. Because live liver transplants are much quicker and easier to recover from, it is a great option for many individuals, Thiesset said. Still, there are risks for live donors. That is why Thiesset and Kim also hope to boost donor awareness about the importance of registering as an organ donor.

While other medical centers in Utah have performed live liver transplants, U Health Care hopes to become one of the few centers that performs them on a regular basis, Kim said. They are on a good track, because another live liver transplant is scheduled for later this month.

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