Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
Good Morning. My name is Dale Merz and my story began when I was in my early 20’s. I had ulcerative colitis which resulted with my large intestine being removed. A couple years later, I had surgery to make an internal pouch with my small intestine. It was during this surgery, that the doctor discovered that I had cirrhosis of the liver. I had PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis). This is when bile ducts in the liver are clogged or closing. At the age of 27, I was told I was looking at a liver transplant in 10-15 years. The doctor assured me that by then they would know a lot about liver transplants.
For the next four years, I struggled with fatigue, weight loss and yellowing of the eyes and skin. In July of 1988, I entered the hospital for a final test that showed my ducts in my liver were very collapsed or clogged. Four days later on a Friday evening, the transplant team at University Hospital told me I need a liver transplant. Fortunately, my wait was only two days. On Sunday, I called my wife and said, “I don’t mean to scare you, but a new liver is coming from a nineteen year old in Michigan.” My surgery took sixteen hours due to much scar tissue from previous surgeries. I had the seventh liver transplant at University, and I am now the longest living liver transplant from University. This may not sound like a nice title, but I don’t plan on giving it up any time soon. I was 31 with a wonderful wife and 5 great children under the age of seven. I spent three months in the hospital and seven months at home regaining my strength. I returned to my job as a carpenter for 20 some years.
On August 1 this summer, I will celebrate my 25th anniversary as a liver transplant recipient with my wife and seven children, their spouses and five grandchildren with one grandbaby due soon. In my thank you letter to the donor family, I promised to make the best of my new liver. I believe each day of my life is a gift. My life was good before my transplant; I have a greater appreciation for my even better life since my transplant. I never expected to see my kids graduate from high school or to walk my daughters down the aisle. I have lived to see my seven children graduate from high school and college. I have walked four daughters down the aisle. And now at the age of 56, I love being “um-pa” to our beautiful grandchildren.
If I could come face to face with my donor and his family, I can’t imagine what I could say for the many years they have given me. There would be tears of sorrow for their loss mixed with tears of joy for the life they have given me. No words are adequate. This young man gave me hope, life and the ultimate gift of a new liver. Many advancements in liver disease have been made over the years. With the help of our many families and friends, let us continue to support the effort by the American Liver Foundation. I made my first walk in the Liver Walk last summer, and I hope to see many of you again next year.
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