Life and Death: Finding a Donor

A Massachusetts man looks to his friends and family to save his life.

ByABC News
September 17, 2007, 4:10 PM

Sept. 17, 2007 -- We first met Stephen Dziemian earlier this year. His wife, Corey, was with him as he visited a series of doctors. And it was clear he was very sick.

Back in February, Dr. James Pomposelli told Dziemian that his chances of dying from liver disease within three months were a little more than 10 percent.

On that first day we saw him, Dziemian's liver had been failing slowly for years, and his skin was turning yellow. He had a disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Click here to see some of Stephen Dziemian's or Carlo Morrisey's responses to your questions and comments.

Dziemian was finally at the point where he was going to need a new liver, and in some ways, he wasn't ready to hear it. "I don't feel good, but I don't feel that bad, though," he told ABC News. "I don't feel like I'm really at that point yet where I'm worried I'm going to die, or anything. I certainly don't feel like that."

At this point, Dziemian was 36, a dad with a 3-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. He was employed in the printing center of Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass. He held a second job as a salesman at Pure Hockey, a hockey supply chain, because hockey was his life, and he played all the time, even though he'd been sick since 1992.

The prospect of going through a liver transplant seemed like something he could put off forever.

But doctors told Dziemian it was literally do or die time.

The hard facts were that Dziemian needed a new liver fast, but the waiting list was months long possibly too long to get one from the organ bank that is supplied with organs from the deceased.

But there was another option to save his life. The doctors told him to look to his family, and to his friends. In a sense, the people in the picture frames on his own mantelpiece one of them could be a possible donor a living donor.

But in requesting a liver donation, Dziemian was asking his family and friends to take a big risk, because the healthy donor in these cases routinely gets sick sometimes, sicker than the person who needs the liver.

Doctors explained to Dziemian that he needed to ask people close to him. "The way it was explained to me was, 'We really would be more comfortable if you were to ask family members, or ask friends, close friends,' he said. "I think the way they said it was 'friends you have an emotional relationship with.'"