In the summer of 2018, Jayne and her family packed up their beach gear and traveled to Florida for a family vacation. After a few days there, Jayne’s husband turned to her and said, “Your eyes look a little yellow.”
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The Challenge: Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
She immediately contacted her doctor in Denver. Her doctor advised her to come in for further evaluation when they returned from vacation a week later. After several evaluations and tests, Jayne was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) in February 2019.
PSC is an autoimmune disease that causes the liver’s bile ducts to become chronically inflamed and can lead to scarring and blockages. When bile ducts become impaired, liver function is affected. The result is liver damage that can lead to cirrhosis and the need for a liver transplant.
The Path to Living-Donor Liver Transplant at UPMC
When Jayne and her husband received the news, they began to look for treatments.
“At the time, we didn’t really know that a liver transplant was an option,” said Jayne.
Jayne’s doctor said a living-donor liver transplant was her best option as her health was in steady decline. While researching liver transplant clinics and hospitals, her husband came across UPMC’s Liver Transplant program in Pittsburgh.
“We saw how many living donor transplants UPMC performed and we immediately began partnering with them to get things started,” said Jayne. They also started to search for a living donor.
“In my family, when something isn’t right, we say it’s a ‘Blackhawk down situation,'” said Jayne.
Jayne texted her sister, Elyse, to tell her they had a ‘Blackhawk down situation’ and she needed a living-donor transplant.
Elyse had seen Jayne just a few months earlier and she said looked perfectly healthy. After hearing the news, Elyse immediately asked if she could be her living donor.
Elyse, who lives in Minnesota, traveled to Pittsburgh in October 2019 to be evaluated as a potential living donor. She was a perfect match for her sister.
“It was a little daunting to pick up my life and go to Pittsburgh for this procedure,” said Elyse.
“However, the team at UPMC was fantastic. They had representatives pick us up at the airport, helped us find housing, and made it very comfortable for us since we were out of town.”
The Result: Unconditional Love
The two sisters met at UPMC Montefiore on the morning of Dec. 2, 2019 to undergo surgery. They put their hospital gowns on together and took a photo to document the special moment.
Both surgeries were successful and the sisters are doing well with their recoveries.
“Other than the scars on our stomachs, we are both thriving after surgery,” said Elyse.
One of the first things Elyse saw when she woke from surgery was her sister walking the hall in the ICU. “I couldn’t believe that she was walking even that soon,” said Elyse.
After their surgeries, the sisters remained in Pittsburgh for a few weeks to be monitored by doctors until it was safe for them to travel. Both Jayne and Elyse were home before Christmas.
“UPMC is such a well-oiled machine. They didn’t even give you a chance to get nervous about anything because they were in such great control of the whole process,” said Jayne. “We were very lucky to end up at UPMC, and I encourage everyone who is in need of a liver transplant to look into UPMC as an option,” she added.
During Elyse’s first follow-up appointment at UPMC, she told her doctor that UPMC’s transplant team does an amazing job with patients in need of organ transplants.
“He turned to me and said, ‘No, it’s amazing what you are able to do.'”
About Transplant Services
For more than four decades, UPMC Transplant Services has been a leader in organ transplantation. Our clinicians have performed more than 20,000 organ transplant procedures, making UPMC one of the foremost organ transplant centers in the world. We are home to some of the world’s foremost transplant experts and take on some of the most challenging cases. Through research, we have developed new therapies that provide our patients better outcomes — so organ recipients can enjoy better health with fewer restrictions. Above all, we are committed to providing compassionate, complete care that can change – and save – our patients’ lives. Visit our website to find a provider near you.