Tag Archives: Liver Transplantation

Meriwether Distillery: The Very Best Use of Your Liver

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Transplants, Avalanche Bombs and Other Adventures

Transplants, Avalanche Bombs and Other Adventures

Five years ago Whitney Meriwether made an amazing sacrifice. He let the surgeons at the Mayo Clinic split him open, take half his liver and give it to my husband in a procedure known as a living donor liver transplantation. I wrote about the transplant–and many other exciting things–in my memoir  (insert shameless plug here).

In other words, Whitney saved John’s life.

I remember driving the two of them home from the hospital after surgery to our little apartment we kept in Rochester, MN during the ordeal and overhearing this conversation (or something like it):

John: Now that we’re out of the hospital, what should we do next?

Whitney: I’ve always wanted to make something, to create something with my hands.

John: You should make vodka!

Maybe that wasn’t the exact words, but you get the gist.

PrintWhitney is a man of his word. Once he sets his sites on something, he’s like a pitbull. He doesn’t let go easily.

Meriwether Distillery is now producing Speakeasy Vodka, and it’s very good. He’s also got a kickstarter campaign going. I encourage you to check it out and support his efforts. Because, after all, vodka is the very best use of a liver. Just saying.

Kickstarter Campaign

Kickstarter Campaign: Click for More Info

Here’s a little more from their website:

“For this project we are hoping to raise $50,000. This seed money will go to our new distillation equipment and allow us to update and prepare our site for higher production and the addition of three new products to the Speakeasy family in the next twelve months. We appreciate you taking the time to read and thank you for your backing. Please tell anyone and everyone you can think of to check us out. Thanks!”

Aspen Event to Promote Organ and Tissue Donation

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The 7th Annual Summit for Life Event in Aspen on Dec. 7-8 will raise money and awareness for organ and tissue donation. I participated last year and many of you made donations in my honor. This is a great event, full of energy and enthusiasm to celebrate second chances. My husband was given a second chance four years ago. Below is a video from the event last year. See if you can spot my cameo appearance.

This year, I’m making my donation in honor of Chris Klug. In 2000 Chris received a life saving liver donation and then went on to win a bronze medal in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Games. When my husband was waiting for his liver transplant and heard about Chris’s story, he was motivated and hopeful. Chris gave John the hope and drive to get through the ordeal. Since meeting Chris and participating last year, I can say he’s one hell of a guy. His enthusiasm for life is infectious. Being a part of Summit For Life last year was fun and exhilarating. It is a celebration of life.

Today Chris heads the Chris Klug Foundation, which promotes donor awareness and puts on great events such as Summit For Life. Today 116,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ donation. One donor can save 8 lives through organ donation and enhance 100 lives through tissue donation. 90% of Americans support organ and tissue donation, but only 30% take the necessary steps to becoming a donor. Thanks to people like Chris Klug, this is changing.

Please visit Chris’s donation page and support the cause.

Facebook Saves Lives

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Are you feeling guilty about all those “wasted” hours on Facebook? Do you scroll through your news feed with a sense of irresponsibility as the work piles up in your inbox?

Well, now you don’t have to. Check out this video explaining how Facebook and Donate Life are saving lives. Just click on the image to start the video.

 

Facebook has partnered with Donate Life America and  recently announced the new “organ donor” status tool. Now, you can declare your live-giving choice to your friends. The first step in organ donation is making the choice. The second step is letting your loved ones know your wishes.

Every day 18 people die waiting for a organ donor. You can save 8 lives and improve many more by becoming an organ donor. No one wants to think about their own death. I don’t. But I signed up to be an organ donor when I was sixteen years old and I have the little heart on my driver’s license to prove it. I never expected that my husband would need a liver transplant some day. When the time came, the wait list was too long. John would have died before he got a liver. Instead, a heroic member of our family donated half of his liver to John and saved his life. Luckily his anatomy matched closely enough for a successful living donor transplant. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Here’s how to declare your status:

Go to Timeline, click on “Life Event,” select “Health and Wellness,” choose “Organ Donor.” And make sure to click on the “Officially Register” link to make your decision to be a donor official by registering in your state. It’s that easy! Please share this post with everyone you know.

Weekly High-Five Report: Liver Day, a tribute to a hero

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Whitney and John all smiles after the transplant

Four years ago yesterday my husband received a liver transplant. Thanks to the generous donation by his living donor, Whitney Meriwether, who gave up nearly half of his liver, John is now alive and thriving. While many friends and family stood in the queue to help save John’s life, each one of us was rejected for various reasons. I was a good match but diabetes prevented me from donating. Whitney was rejected twice, but he kept trying. Most people would give up. Most people would tell themselves they tried, patting themselves on the back for the effort. Not Whitney. He figured that with a few dietary changes he could save John’s life. In a living donor transplant the right lobe from the donor is transplanted into the patient and in just one month regrows to full size in both people. It reminds me a little bit of the scene from Woody Allen’s Sleeper, like a nose that will grow back into a person. It’s strange but amazing. And now my husband has a very important piece of Whitney inside him. I’m just glad that Whitney never gave up. The day before the surgery his mom told me that Whitney doesn’t like to be told “No”. Thank God for that. Four years ago today John and Whitney walked out of Intensive Care (well, Whitney walked, John rode on the gurney). This weekend John and I reminded ourselves of our good fortune. He’s alive. He’s cancer-free. He’s still a father, a husband, a friend. If you’ve ever wondered what a hero who has learned firsthand the regenerative powers of the liver does next, check out Meriwether Distillery, a craft distillery making spirits in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. Now here’s a man who knows how to use his liver. Thank you Whitney. High-five brother.

Change of Plans

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Kircher Cliffs, Big Sky, Montana

Nothing is ever quite certain in life. Plans change. What you thought would be the greatest moment of your life can pale. What should have been drab might turn out to be stellar.

Before I met my husband, I thought I lived a spontaneous life. Back then I was living out of the back of my truck in the summer and dirt-bagging at my parent’s cabin at Crystal Mountain in winter. I didn’t earn much, but I didn’t need much. I was always ready at a moment’s notice for whatever adventure came my way.

Or so I thought.

After spending time with John–when I knew I might be falling in love with him–it was his spontaneity that most intrigued me. John lived like a man on a mission. He knew he would need a liver transplant someday. He figured it would be hard, and maybe he wouldn’t live through it. So he took every single moment and stretched, folded and rearranged it to its fullest.

We could all learn a lot from John. Not a single moment is wasted on this man.

When he first got sick, we expected to go to the Mayo Clinic for a few days and return home to await the transplant. Boy were we ever naive. We had no idea the challenge that lay ahead. The night after his first endoscopy, when I cancelled our flight home and prepared to hunker down near the eye of the storm, it was late in the day when I changed hotels.

We’d been staying at a place near the clinic–somewhere close to his doctor’s office, where we could make the daily appointment rounds as we joined the queue for organ donation and figured out the system. But something went wrong during that endoscopy.

He woke up, but didn’t rally. Where was my strong John? We had a flight to catch. We had a life to continue living back at home. And here he was, sick and hurting and telling me he wanted to stay in the hospital that night where they could look after him. He was transferred to the hospital by ambulance while I went to the hotel to check out and take a taxi to a place near him.

As I stood in the elevator, pushing two suitcases and wondering how he was doing back in his hospital room as I frantically changed our flight and hotel arrangements, another woman joined me on the next floor. She glanced at my bags, then at her watch. It was 6pm. She smiled. “It’s late to be checking out,” she said. She was trying to be nice.

I felt a sword in my throat. I knew that if I looked at her I would cry. If I even glanced in her general direction I would break down. This was all too soon. John and I had only been married a year. This liver transplant thing wasn’t supposed to happen yet. We needed a few good years. Our adventures had only started. I tried not to look at this woman, her shiny face a picture of Midwest kindness.

I lifted my chin slightly, my eyebrows making strident arches above my bloodshot eyes, and said, “change of plans.” But I wasn’t as brave and strong as I’d like to pretend I was. My voice wavered. My chest heaved. She knew enough to say she was sorry and to help me stare down the lighted buttons above the door.

As I exited that elevator and headed towards the taxi cabs waiting to transport loved ones with downcast eyes, the earth shifted below my feet. My plans had changed. Our plans. Things would never be the same.

And so when John texted me today to tell me that he’d changed plans and would indeed be joining me in Big Sky for a few days, I was thrilled. I’m here in Big Sky on my book tour and had planned on returning home tomorrow. But not so. My spontaneous husband is now joining me here.

That is the miracle: that my husband is still alive and that we are still being spontaneous. When I say that I’m grateful for every single day I have with him, I’m not kidding. I really am.

Weekly High-Five Report: Summit for Lifers

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Enjoying that post-climb high with CFK Executive Director Jenny Dziura and Chris Klug at the top of Aspen Mountain

As you might already know, I raced in the Summit for Life event at Aspen this weekend to raise money for the Chris Klug Foundation. The mission of CKF is to raise awareness for tissue and organ donation. With their Donor Dudes program, they aim to educate every young person getting their driver’s license to check the box for organ donation.

Every ten minutes another person is put on the national organ waiting list. That waiting list currently has 112,000 critically ill patients on it. 18 people will die today waiting for an organ. When John needed a liver, his only option was a live donor, because the wait for a deceased donor would be too long. He had only 120 days after cancer treatment, and the waiting list was two years.

One donor can save 8 lives through organ donation and enhance the lives of 100 others through tissue donation. Today with cutting edge surgical techniques, more and more lives can be saved. But it takes donors.

Crossing the Finish Line

Becoming an organ donor is a final gift of life. Chris Klug received a liver 11 years ago and went on to become an Olympic medalist in snowboarding. He believes in second chances, and so do I. Two particularly inspiring participants joined together on Saturday night and raced together–one received a life-saving organ donation, the other was a family member of the deceased donor.

Chris is an inspiring leader. His charisma is heartfelt and his compassion is blinding. This year 500 racers and riders supported the Summit for Life event in which competitors raced to the top of Aspen Mountain by the light of the full moon. When the evening ended, after the awards ceremony in which Keegan Swirbul won with an impressive time of 46:31, after Chris gave an inspirational speech, I rode the gondola down alone. The moon shone high in the sky, lighting the Roaring Fork Valley in splendor, I felt inspired and blessed. Three and a half years ago, my husband got a second chance. And thanks to Chris and his foundation, many more lives will be saved.

Here’s a high-five to my awesome sponsors (I personally raised $600), the 500 racers, the 40 volunteers, the race coordinators, Chris, Missy and Bali Klug, Warren and Kathy Klug and all of the CKF team. If you ever doubt that a small group of committed people can make a difference, join me next time for the Summit for Life.  I’ll be back for sure.