MURRAY, Utah (News4Utah) — We continue our 5 part series: ‘Faces of Transplant’ with our partners at Intermountain Medical Center.

In part two, we look at the desperate shortage of organ donations. That means doctors must be creative.

Transplant doctors at Intermountain Medical Center are some of the first to use diseased livers. More specifically, those with Hepatitis C. So far, they’ve had a 100 percent success rate.

Peter Hammond of Salt Lake City, had late stage liver failure.
“It came out of the blue.”

Dr. Richard Gilroy, Medical Director of the Hepatology and Liver Transplant Program at Intermountain Medical Center told Peter, “the only chance he had to live was a transplant.”

“It’s an agonizing wait time. The bottom line, its whether you live or die. Yes, you need a liver transplant, sorry, you need to get sicker to get one,” said Dr. Gilroy. 

That’s because the closer to dying you are, the faster you move up the waiting list. It’s what happened to Peter. He lost 80 pounds waiting in that year.

“I have young kids, 10 and 12. What would they do if i didn’t make it?”

Lucky for Peter, he doesn’t have to wonder about that anymore. Thanks to the unwanted liver. It was a Hep C diseased organ that many doctors would otherwise not used.

But Dr. Gilroy says it is an incredible opportunity to save lives.

“That donated liver saved his life.”

“Glad I had a chance to be asked to get a diseased liver. If I had to wait longer, I’d probably be dead if I didn’t get that chance, honestly,” said Peter. 

Doctors say with Hep C liver transplants, they’ve seen quick recovery times and the ability to clear the disease.

Surgeons at Intermountain Medical Center have performed a record number of liver transplants in 2017, 52. Ten of them were Hep C diseased livers.This is largely because of the opioid epidemic.

“Every cloud has a silver lining and heroine has been ours. Tragedy, that’s what it takes to save lives.,” said Dr. Gilroy. 
 
The most common cause of liver disease in Utah is fatty liver disease. The problem is causing not just more people needing a liver transplant, but also affects the quality of potential organ donation.

Dr. Gilroy says we need to do better to reduce obesity.
“We will be eating ourselves to a liver transplant so frequently, it will eclipse Hep C and alcohol for a liver transplant.”

He recommends the Mediterranean diet, reducing calories and increasing exercise.  

That’s exactly what Peter is doing because he took that leap faith.

“I will always remember Pioneer Day 2017 when I got a new liver and a new lease on life.”
 
Dr. Gilroy will continue to use Hep C livers and looks to the future that one day bio engineered livers could help address the organ shortage.