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Liver Transplant Recipient Honors Donor Family by Living Life for Two

 
At age 48, Lyric Brogden of Pelham, Ala., is celebrating her 22nd birthday – her liver’s birthday that is. Brogden received a liver from UAB Medicine’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute (CTI) in 1995.The Diagnosis
Brogden was diagnosed earlier that same year with hepatic vein thrombosis, a vein blockage in the liver caused by a blood clot. Her condition was nearly fatal, as two of the three veins that drain blood from her liver were completely blocked.

“I went to the ER with excruciating pain in my abdomen; that’s when my clots were discovered,” Brogden says. “Eight months later, when my liver was failing, I went to my hematologist for a regular checkup and bloodwork. He walked in the door, took one look at me, and saw I’d gained 15 pounds in two days. He was appalled. He says ‘You don’t just need vascular surgery; you need a liver transplant.’”

Brogden says this was devastating to hear at just 26 years old.

“Tears started rolling down my cheeks, and I wasn’t processing the information at all. It was a routine visit, and I had come to the doctor alone. All I could think about was that I hadn’t even been married a year,” she says.

Brogden was so stunned by the news that her hepatologist had to call her and her husband that night to explain everything again. That’s when he told her he would get her in to see the liver team at UAB Medicine.

A Great Deal of Confidence

Brogden became a patient of UAB Medicine’s Devin Eckhoff, MD, and Steve Bynon, MD. She nicknamed them the “Liver Brothers” because in 1995, the team was so small that the two physicians did rounds together. She says their expertise helped give her hope for the future.

“Once I met my surgeons at UAB and spent some time with them, I learned UAB had a 91% first-year success rate. That gave me a great deal of confidence. My husband encouraged me to get a second opinion elsewhere, but I told him I was staying at home and listing with UAB,” Brogden says.

World-Class Care in Your Backyard

After being listed on the liver donor registry, a donor from Mississippi was matched to Brogden. The transplant surgery was a success.

“I had excellent care and only stayed in the hospital a week after my transplant,” Brogden says. “So many times in the weeks and months after my transplant I was grateful that I lived in Birmingham, where we have world-class health care right here in our backyard.”

Brogden says her most memorable moments during the transplant process involved her interactions with UAB Medicine’s knowledgeable, caring staff.

“I had some extraordinary nurses in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit and on the transplant floor in West Pavilion. I was in and out of the hospital five or six times that first year so I really got the opportunity to appreciate how well trained and caring those nurses were,” Brogden says.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Brogden’s liver is functioning well and is stable all these years after her transplant. She takes anti-rejection medications to prevent infection and help regulate her liver function, but she says she now has a perfectly normal future ahead.

“My surgeon told me years ago that my new liver was pristine, and when it was my time to go, it likely wouldn’t be from liver failure,” Brogden says.

Brogden says it’s hard to adequately thank the UAB Medicine care team for her lifesaving transplant, but she tries to do so by living life to the fullest.

“I think the best way we can thank our medical professionals is the same way we honor our donors and donor families: take our meds, do what we’re instructed to do, and take the very best care of our precious gift that we can. Actions speaker louder than words,” Brogden says. “Our care teams know we’re grateful. The way I live is the best way I can show them how truly grateful I am. I’m more thankful for each day, for my life, and everyone and everything in it.”

Live Life for Two

Brogden says organ donation is critical to making the next 50 years at the CTI a success. She says the decision a young man made 22 years ago by agreeing to become an organ donor forever changed her life.

“It’s hard to find words to express the appropriate amount of appreciation. How do you thank someone for saving your life? It’s impossible,” Brogden says. “The main thing I’ve always communicated to my donor family when I’ve written them is this: I am honoring your son. I cannot know how devastating his loss is to you. However, please know it is my goal to live life for two: your son and mine.”

Brogden says she urges everyone to consider being an organ donor.

“Did you know that 116,000 people in this country are waiting for an organ donor match? If you put all those people in the University of Alabama’s football stadium, 15,000 of them wouldn’t get in. What an incredible number! This is a decision you can make now that can save or benefit up to 50 lives. I’m alive today because 22 years ago a donor said ‘Yes.’ Please say yes.”