Since 1980, Ken Smith, a resident of Ocean Pines, Maryland, has been coping with numerous health problems, including elevated levels of liver enzymes, Type 2 diabetes and pancytopenia. In 2004, Ken was diagnosed with liver and kidney failure. His local gastroenterologist referred him to UMMC for evaluation, where it was determined he needed both a liver and kidney transplant. Read his story below.
For weeks I noticed that my ability to walk, climb stairs, and perform almost any physical activity had been rapidly declining. One of my co-workers took me to the hospital, where doctors determined that I was bleeding into my esophagus. Later, I underwent a liver biopsy, which determined that most of my liver tissue was plugged with fat cells.
I was referred to a hematologist in Salisbury, who arranged for me to see Dr. Jacqueline Lauryn, a former hepatologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Dr. Lauryn diagnosed me with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In September 2007, Dr. Preeti Reshamwala took over my case. Additional tests showed that my kidney function was also in decline. I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and told that I would eventually need a kidney and liver transplant.
My wife and I met with the staff of the UMMC Transplant Center on March 20, 2008. By this time, every movement I made was laborious. Even walking more than a few steps became tiring. My prognosis was not good. I was told that, without a liver and kidney transplant, I could expect to live for another three months at most.
After returning home, my wife and I started working to complete the checklist of tests that would put my name on the transplant waiting list. The list of tests seemed overwhelming -- blood tests, CAT scans, ECGs, ultrasounds and more. I began a Web site, sponsored by UMMC and CaringBridge, to help me easily update family and friends about my condition.
On Friday, June 13, 2008, the transplant office told me that I would be put on the waiting list for both a liver and kidney transplant. Two days later, on June 15, 2008, I was attending a Father’s Day cookout with my wife and children when my cell phone rang at 9:47 p.m. It was the transplant office calling me to let me know that both organs were available, and that I had to get to the medical center as soon as possible. My wife drove while my son kept me company. We arrived at UMMC at 3 a.m.
My surgery was scheduled for 10 a.m.; however, the organs arrived later than expected, and surgery was rescheduled for 5 p.m. Transplant surgeon Dr. Rolf Barth and a colleague worked together to transplant my new liver and kidney. By 2:45 a.m., the 10-hour surgery was finally complete, thanks to Dr. Barth.
After surgery, I was transferred to the ICU. The next day, I was transferred from the ICU to a room I shared with another transplant patient.
Everyone who visited was very impressed with the numerous medical teams that came in to check up on the various aspects of my recovery, including liver specialists, kidney specialists, cardiologists, endocrinologists, urologists, nutritionists, social workers, occupational therapists and physical therapists.
After two days, I was able to walk from the bed to the hallway and slightly out of the room. One week later, I was able to walk from my room to the lobby and back.
Many of the original symptoms of kidney and liver failure were gone completely. The new organs worked as if they were always a part of my body. After 11 days, I was able to go home to complete my recovery.
An amazing job was done by Dr. Barth and everyone else at UMMC, from the fellow who took my blood samples each day to the social worker who helped me complete forms. The eighth-floor nursing staff is an outstanding group. The nurses are attentive, knowledgeable, responsive, caring, thoughtful and forgiving, but most of all, encouraging. They let me know what I couldn’t do, but more importantly, they made sure I tried to do everything I was able to in order to make a full recovery. Behind the scenes taking the time to answer all of my questions and concerns were transplant coordinators Debbie Virden and Linda Ridge.
Even today, two years after my surgery, my transplant experience continues. I got to see my son, Brandon, get married and my son Devin move into his first home. My daughter Kara became a naval officer candidate and will begin college next month, and my son Justin now coaches a competitive swimming team and will soon graduate from Salisbury University. Thanks to my donor and his family and the surgical staff at UMMC, I have had the invaluable opportunity to share in my family’s joy at these wonderful events. BE A HERO -- BE AN ORGAN DONOR!