I’m not sure how this happens in a country where kids graduate high school unable to do simple arithmetic, but it seems the American public has a general awareness that the human body has two kidneys but needs only one to survive. So, it seems, do they know that the body requires a liver to live. (Hence the organ’s name, I suppose.)
Which is why I imagine it might be easier for living kidney donors to tell their stories to the aforementioned American public than it is for living liver donors. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told someone about my gift of my liver to my brother and in response heard, “Um, don’t you need your liver?” My favorite time this happened, it came from a nurse at my doctor’s office. Who, theoretically at least, went to nursing school.
I’ve developed an easy method for explaining how it works. I make two fists and put them together, palms down, and explain that there are two lobes to your liver. Then I extend my fingers out and wiggle them, fists still together, and explain that each lobe has a blood supply — veins, arteries, and ducts. I separate my two hands, fingers still out, and focus on my right hand, explaining that one lobe is removed, with a short length of the veins, arteries, and ducts, and then transplanted into the recipient. And then, to show how it looks grown back, I place my fists back together, fingers out on my right hand and tucked in on my left hand to show what it looks like in the recipient, and the reverse to show what it looks like in the donor. It works really well. But it would be so much easier if we all just had MRI images tucked in our pockets, I’m sure!
So for my fellow living liver donors out there, I’m happy to offer my own. These pics, taken a month before my January 2006 liver donation and about seven weeks after, pretty much say it all.
Yep, it grows back all right. Pretty cool.