This Thanksgiving holiday, many Pennsylvania families will break bread and celebrate all that they are thankful for. It’s a special holiday to share with loved ones, express gratitude and indulge in an abundance of delicious food. West Lawn, PA resident, Bill Griffis has something even more powerful to be grateful for – his life-saving liver donor.
Three years post-transplant, Bill, 47, is in great health and spirits. As a child, Bill was diagnosed with Hemophilia, a medical condition that causes severe bleeding from even the slightest injury. Due to this disease, he required numerous transfusions and contracted Hepatitis C. Throughout his childhood, he suffered from episodes of internal bleeding and joint and muscle issues.
Luckily, having Hepatitis C didn’t affect him through most of his young life. It wasn’t until he was in his early 30s that his health began to deteriorate. He went through various treatments to eradicate the disease, but after five separate rounds of medication, doctors knew that it was untreatable.
In 2011 during a gallbladder removal surgery, his surgeon took a biopsy of Bill’s liver. “They told me that I had stage-two Cirrhosis, but that my liver would be fine for probably another 20 years. It didn’t work that way, and in 2013 I started to get a lot of fluid retention in my legs.” Bill said. “With the help of diuretics, I was still able to do my normal activities. But the water pill dosage had to keep being increased and stopped working.”
In November 2013, Bill began spending more time in the hospital. “I was in and out of the hospital for about six months. It got really bad and I started to have Encephalopathy, which caused me to have confusion and be incoherent.” said Bill. “One day my wife came home and I was on the floor and I didn’t recognize her or know my own name.” He had to be flown with an air ambulance to the hospital and was put in a medically induced coma for a week. When he came out of the coma, he was told that he would receive a liver transplant.
“My wife cried when we found out that there was a matching donor. She knew that I was at the end of my life and that I only had a few hours left to live without a transplant.” Bill said. “I spent three weeks in the hospital and three weeks in therapy before I could come home. Although I was in the hospital over Thanksgiving post- transplant, it was still so special to us – because I was alive! We didn’t have a turkey dinner or any holiday decorations, but my wife said she got the best gift that year, the ‘gift of her husband’.”
Bill made a promise to his donor that he would be a champion for organ and tissue donation. He’s an active volunteer and speaker today, sharing his story in the community in hopes of inspiring others to register as donors. “My donor has been with me through everything I’ve done since my transplant. I’m thankful every day to live my life to the fullest and make every second count.” said Bill.
Bill and his family will spend this Thanksgiving together. Bill has two adult children, Chris, 26 and Alyssa, 21. He said, “The holidays are totally different now. My transplant put everything into perspective for me. I used to worry about all of the little things before, and now I just live in the moment. The holidays aren’t about gifts anymore, because I already received the greatest gift – my health.”
Today, nearly 8,500 men, women and children in Pennsylvania are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, and nationally over 119,000 are waiting. Unfortunately, because of the lack of individuals registered as donors, 21 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting.
Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 42 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need. Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 42,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation. For more information or to register, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.