Life and Death: Finding a Donor

When it came time to ask his brother for help, Dziemian found it difficult to be direct. "I basically handed them a pamphlet and said, 'This is something the hospital would like me to consider doing.' To this day, I haven't asked somebody to do it. I don't know, it just feels funny to ask somebody to make that kind of commitment, or life-altering, possibly life-altering change in their life."

But David got the point.

"I could see it in his eyes, how he asked me, that it was probably one of the hardest things he's ever had to do," David said.

And so David stepped forward and went for the medical checks to make sure he was a good match in all ways — not just blood type — but the more the doctors told him, the more he worried about what he'd signed on for.

Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., told David that "the estimated chance of dying or having a catastrophe that's quoted in this circumstance is somewhere about a half a percent range. But as I say to people, 'You don't half a percent die. You're either alive or dead at the end of the day, and the whole purpose of the evaluation is to be able to assess your risk.'"

In the end, David did not have to make the difficult decision of putting his life at risk. Tests revealed that his blood did not clot well enough to make him a candidate. And David was partly relieved to hear that.

"[I] just kind of have some mixed emotions about that — a little bit sad, but a little bit relieved at the same time," he said.

Stephen had much the same reaction. "In some ways, when I found out about my brother, a little part of me was happy, because now he doesn't have to go through this."

It was a generous response, but Dziemian was still in very serious trouble.

The Search Continues

But in one 24-hour period, Dziemian received three phone calls that gave him new hope. Three different men — not members of his family — had heard about his situation, and stepped forward to volunteer to be his liver donors. All three went to the Lahey Clinic to fill out paperwork and get a preliminary examination. They also — one-on-one — were briefed about the risks.

Then, in an awkward moment, they were asked as a group to make a huge decision.

The first candidate — Dziemian's stepsister's fiancé — had the same blood clotting problem as David.

The second candidate — a former roommate of Dziemian's — decided not to go through with it, because his wife was just one month away from giving birth.

That left only one last possibility — a man named Carlo Morrisey, who hardly knew Dziemian (he's the uncle of a good friend of Dziemian).

And so, in this 17th week, Morrisey — a high school psychologist, who, at 56, was, at first, told he was too old to volunteer — is now the candidate.

But, Pomfret had her doubts. "I told Carlo that he wouldn't be my first choice, because of his BMI [body mass index]. We've got a very good likelihood that we'd have some fatty infiltration in his liver."

But, with no one else stepping forward now, Morrisey proved to be a good enough candidate.

So, on an early Wednesday morning, this man who barely knew Dziemian, went to Lahey Clinic to save his life, which meant going under the knife. They were going to need 60 percent of his liver.

Why would this man make a sacrifice like that?

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