April is national donate life month which is something I hold near and dear to my heart, or rather, my liver. The whole month is about educating people on the importance of registering to be an organ donor and create a platform for people like myself to share our story.
As of this year, I’ve now been on the transplant for 11 years. During the month of April, I usually take the time to share my story and experiences as a way to help others to learn and understand why it means so much to me. A few weeks ago someone asked me a question that not many have before. And that was, “What is the transplant evaluation like?”
Not surprisingly, it’s a lot. While everyone’s experience is different, here’s the story of my evaluation and what life is like living on the transplant list.
First Day of Evaluation
One the first day of evaluation I was a little taken back by the number of vials needed, but thankfully I never have to do this many again! The first round of work up is to check overall health, as well as a few specifics.
Because I suffer from Budd Chiari Syndrome and am waiting for a liver transplant, they had to check my liver enzymes to measure the severity of the disease. AST and ALTs are the most talked about enzymes that will help diagnose liver disease. GGT is another which is elevated when cirrhosis, alcoholism, liver cancer and viral hepatitis are present. ALP AND LDH are both found in the liver among other areas of the body but will help better diagnose liver disease.
- Bilirubin: formed during the breakdown of red blood cells and plays a part in the excretion of bile which is needed to digest food. When there is an issue with that process, it can get absorbed back into the bloodstream and cause jaundice.
- Albumin: a protein made by the liver to help maintain muscle mass. A liver that is not functioning normally will not make the right amount of albumin the body needs and will cause the body to take protein from the muscles leading to muscle wasting and weight loss.
- Ammonia: the product of the body breaking down protein. It usually converts to urea and is excreted by the kidneys. A buildup of ammonia in the bloodstream can lead to hepatic encephalopathy.
- Platelet Counts: are needed to help with clotting so without them, the risk of bleeding is increased.
- Prothrombin Time (PT): the factor that along with platelets helps form clots and stop bleeding.
- AFPs: a tumor marker test that checks for cancers.
They will also run tests to check for certain other diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, as well as blood type.