Since the point of this blog is to share information and experiences about living donation, from time to time I’ll reprise some of my favorite posts from Chopped Liver, the blog I wrote while I was going through the experience of being a living liver donor in late 2005/early 2006. By far, one of my favorites is this one, about my pre-surgery biopsy — conducted because my MRI images suggested inconclusively that I might have some show-stopping “fatty infiltration” that would make my liver tissue unsuitable for Joe. You can click here to read the original blog’s full archives from this particular anxious period in my journey.
The best-looking liver sample in the world
Wow. Liver biopsies suck.
But it’s over with, and just four hours after the procedure, I’ve got a belly full of food and not too much pain. My morning started at 8:00, and after I’d changed into my backless gown I stressed to the team that a new name is really needed for this fatty infiltration thing. They sympathized and called me skinny. I suddenly felt love for them.
By 8:30 this morning, the doctor was showing me my liver on an ultrasound machine. It was a blob, with some dark lines and spots here and there. “What are the dark spots?” I asked her. “They’re veins and ducts,” the doctor said. And then, from right behind her, my friendly nurse practioner piped up. “They’re globs of fat. Big huge globs of fat.” A wonderful laugh was had by all.
About two minutes later, I had two black Sharpie dots and one yellow highlighter dot on my side, and 30 seconds later, I had a novocaine-filled needle giving me a vicious bee sting in the ribs. I’m not entirely sure why the use the novocaine to begin with, because not only was the injection itself painful, but what came next was anything but numbed.
The implement used for liver biopsies is called a Bard sampler. From a handle like that of a mid-sized Philips screwdriver extends a tube–the “needle”–that was at least one foot long. It was 1.6 centimeters in diameter, and built to extend only 22mm of its available length into the body. It felt awful going in, and worse coming out. And then, swoosh, she dropped my liver sample into a little vial of liquid, like a teeny reddish tequila worm. “Hm, it’s small,” she said to the nurse practitioner, who promptly agreed. “Sorry, but I’ve got to stick you one more time,” the doctor said, as I steeled myself for a second round of that terrible stabbing pain. The second time, I couldn’t breathe for at least ten seconds after it was over. Good god. I don’t recommend biopsies for fun.
The second sample was a much thicker, substantial worm, though, and we all oooed and awwed over its perfection as a sample as it floated in the clear liquid next to its scrawny sister. At that point, the doc gave me some good news: “Fat cells are white, and in some people with fatty liver you can see it — the sample looks almost all white. Yours looks fully pink. I suspect you’re going to come out just fine.”
And then the nurse gave me better news: We should know the results by the end of the week.
And then I laid on my side for three hours.