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23. #50YearsofTransplant: Katie Powell

Katie Powell shares her story of being a living liver donor. Her brother Mitch had a rare liver disease and therefore needed a transplant. Without her family knowing, Katie got all the tests done to find out if she was a match for Mitch.
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What compelled you to get tested to see if you could become a living liver donor?

"One evening over dinner, my parents were talking about organ donation and considering being organ donors themselves for my brother Mitch. The entire concept of organ donation and especially living organ donation was really interesting to me so I decided to look into it. My parents told me they were deemed too old to donate so I started considering the process. At first I talked to our doctor and he directed me to BC Transplant. Shortly after, they sent me an information package and a chest x-ray request. This first step started to feel real and a bit nerve-wracking but I decided to just go with it and see what happens from there. Once the tests were all done, I got a phone call to set up a date for the surgery. I suddenly realized my parents didn't know anything; I didn't tell them just in case it was going to be a no so I kept the entire process to myself. I knew I had to tell them, and I knew they should hear it from me."

What did your friends and family think when you discussed your decision to donate a portion of your liver?

"One evening, I sat them down saying I needed to talk to them and my mom's initial reaction was 'Oh no, she's either getting married or pregnant.' When I shared the news with them, they were in extreme shock.  My mom's initial response was, 'no!' They knew one child needed this for the betterment of his health but not at the expense of their other child. I didn't really give them a choice though; it was a 'get on board or get out of the way' conversation. I knew that this was something I really wanted to do so there was no way I was going to let them change my mind. When Mitch came into the room and they told him, we literally saw a weight being lifted off him as his shoulders collapsed in relief. This is where I was sure my decision was the right one. Mitch has a rare blood type so we knew from the beginning it was going to be very difficult to find a match for him."

What would you say about the common myths around organ donation and living organ donation?

"I thought donating a part of my liver meant that I'd have to give up alcohol, which I was ready to do. I also didn't mind this as it wasn't a staple part of my everyday life so it wouldn't make a big difference. Either way, it was certainly something small I was willing to give up so my brother can get his second chance at life. Other than that, I didn't think about the process too much - I just went for it and hoped for the best."

How did you feel when you got the call that you were a match for him?

"My initial thought was "Wow, I have to tell my family now." I was in a parking lot, about to go home when I felt a wave of nervousness seep in. I was nervous to tell my parents about this as I didn't know how they were going to react. Of course they would get excited eventually as this was going to help Mitch immensely but I also knew they had no idea I was getting tested for this. I even told our family doctor who was involved in the entire process that he cannot share anything with my parents yet. He was super supportive throughout it all; he kept it a secret as he knew I didn't want to disappoint my parents in case I wasn't a match."

What thoughts would you like to share with someone considering being a living kidney donor and/or organ donor?

"My first piece of advice would be to not rely on the research online, but to focus on BC Transplant's advice. I would also encourage them to talk to someone who has been through it so they can gain a proper understanding of what to expect and tips to be comfortable throughout the recovery process. People can actually call me; I would love to share my experiences as I learned the most when I talked to a living liver donor myself. I would want people to remember that "you are stronger than you think you are, never forget that". This is the most important thing I learned throughout my journey. My mom also created a Facebook page called 'What are we chopped liver?' It was a platform to communicate our updates with our family and friends and it's a great place to start for anyone who wants to learn more as it includes our entire transplant journey."  

What is the most rewarding part of being an organ donor/living liver donor?

"Six years ago, I was able to give my brother a second chance at life. I know that I would never want to consider death myself so when I realized that this is something Mitch had to consider on a daily basis, I knew it was necessary. While we recently found out Mitch needs another transplant, we are happy knowing that he did get six years of peace and quiet and he was able to live without worrying for once in his life, which was amazing. We are hoping for the best for his second transplant." 

50in50; #50YearsofTransplant; BC Transplant
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