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Liver Transplant Gives Second Chance at Life

July 30, 2018 05:51 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Sunday was the annual Transplant Patient and Donor Family Picnic in Rochester. The picnic celebrates living donors and their recipients and honors deceased donors who gave the gift of life. 

At 29-years-old, Bryan Duncan received a life-changing diagnosis. 

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"I had primary sclerosing cholangitis. I found that out. I was young and healthy and then found out I had that and the only treatment that helps it out is a transplant," said Bryan.

His father wanted to donate his liver but didn’t have the right blood type. His father in law did, but at 59-years-old, he was too old to donate. 

"They just changed it about the middle of when I was coming up to Mayo Clinic to 60. So when they changed it to 60, he said oh well I'm definitely going to do it now," said Bryan.

Bryan lives in Arkansas with his wife Julie and two kids but came to Mayo Clinic for the liver transplant. 

"It was crazy, just the whole thing. Two of the most important men in my life going through a serious surgery at the same time. It was a lot to take in," said Bryan’s wife Julie.

Director of Mayo Clinic Transplant Center Charles Rosen says they do about 20 living donor liver transplants a year. 

"The real reason we do living donor liver transplantation is that we just don't have enough deceased liver donors for everybody that needs them. And living donated is an opportunity for many people to have transplantation that otherwise would not be able to,” said Rosen.

 In 2017, Bryan was told he would need a second transplant. This time from a 29-year-old woman who passed away.

"I recovered quickly after the first one. I had some hiccups, but it's hard not that have hiccups with a transplant,” said Bryan.

Julie says the two transplants were very different experiences.

"With my dad, we could thank him and he could see how Bryan was doing. But with a deceased donor you think about their family and all the unknowns it's very emotional," said Julie.

Bryan says he is grateful to both of his donors.  While he could thank his father in law in person, the most he could do for his second donor was send a letter to her family. He hasn’t heard back yet but hopes they know the impact of her actions. 

"I appreciate the gift that she gave me and the second chance of life she gave me with my wife and kids. It's just an amazing thing that people will sign up to be donors and give that gift of life," said Bryan.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 114,000 people are on the National Transplant Waiting List as of April 2018. 

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