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Recipient Stories

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Have you ever asked yourself how you would do things differently if you were given a second chance? This was something I never asked until about two years ago but now I am living out the answer to that question.

My name is Rob West and two years ago I received my second chance and a fresh start  through a liver transplant.

My journey began in 2007. I was diagnosed with pre-cirrhosis of the liver due to scarring. I also developed esophageal varices in my portal vein. This happens when the blood flow to your liver is blocked and the blood backs up and builds pressure in your veins. Sometimes these veins can burst and in June of 2007, that is what happened. I was at home and I wasn’t too worried about it because it had happened before. By the next morning when I my condition didn’t improve, I went to the Emergency Room at Licking Memorial Hospital. It took some time to get everything under control and I realized that my situation would probably get worse before it got better.

In early March of 2009, I went in for a routine cat scan and blood work to monitor my condition. The results that came back changed my life forever. My doctor sat me down and told me that I had stage four liver disease and that I was going to need a liver transplant to survive. I was immediately sent to The Ohio State University Medical Center for treatment. This was such a difficult thought for me to process. I still looked healthy, but I guess that was no indicator for what was really going on inside my body, as it turns out, looks can most certainly be deceiving.

After doing some research on my own, I realized how serious my condition was. As the days moved forward and the impending future came to the forefront, my wife and I knew that it was going to take a lot of faith to get through this.

While my wife, Deb, and I relied on our faith to get us through, I couldn’t stop thinking about my children: Aaron, Jonathan, Rachelle and Daniel. They were my whole world. What would they do if I wasn’t around to help them continue through adulthood? I couldn’t bear the thought so I kept pushing though and following every order my doctors gave me and became listed for transplant in June of that same year. I knew time was of the essence.

I received the life-changing call that a liver was available on August 19, 2009. I was at home and the whole situation was surreal. I remember calling my wife, who was at work, and we were both scared and excited at the same time. My wife, mother and I quickly packed our things and headed for Columbus where I was prepped for surgery. While I was waiting for my surgery to begin, I was lucky enough to be able to see my family and visit for a little bit. I was so appreciative for this time, as it helped to calm my nerves. Then, in the early hours of the morning on August 20, 2009, I received my gift.

When I woke up I felt as though I had been hit by a truck. I had been in surgery for eight and a half hours. As I began to wake up from the anesthesia I kept thinking, “This is it. This is the first day of the rest of my life.” I was able to go home just 13 days after my original surgery.

It has been a little more than a year since my transplant and I am amazed at what life has to offer. I have seen my children grow and just saw my son, Aaron, depart for the military. I was able to take a vacation with my wife and I am so happy to say that after 29 years of marriage, this journey has only brought us closer. It has made me value her, my children and my life so much more.

To help pay the gift forward, I have begun volunteering for Lifeline of Ohio. There, I have the ability to express my gratitude for this second chance and to teach others the utmost importance of registering to become a donor. I really enjoy participating in their Live On. Ride On.™ campaign where I can exercise my love for my motorcycles while encouraging people to sign up in the Ohio Donor Registry. I would like to encourage everyone to become a registered organ, eye and tissue donor.  I know that without my donor, without his or her selfless gift, I would not be here today. For that, my wife, my children and I are forever grateful.

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