Mothers have a special bond with their children. In special cases, the child repays the favor. For mother Kim, this meant getting a liver transplant with part of her son’s liver.
Diagnosed many years ago with the rare and debilitating autoimmune condition Primary Biliary Cholangitis, which leads to scarring of the liver’s small bile ducts, Kim knew her future was uncertain.
It’s always been kind of out there, that I’d need a liver transplant, but going through the process and looking around at fellow patients, I was faced with the words in my head ‘It’s going to get worse.'”
After living with the disease for 16 years, it progressed to the point that only a liver transplant would save her life.
“If I only have one to three years in this universe, let’s evaluate,” was the thought constantly on her mind.
Her team at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center mentioned the possibility of a living donor. When someone matches with a patient, the donor can give part of his or her liver because the organ can regenerate.
The American Liver Foundation estimates some 15,000 people are waiting for a liver transplant. The waits for a new liver can be long, and every day people die on the waitlist.
“For much of her life, her liver and cells were slowly attacking her own bile ducts to the point she became cirrhotic,” said Caroline Simon, MD, who worked as Kim’s transplant surgeon. “It’s usually controllable in terms of symptoms, but it’s never curable except with a transplant.”
Kim’s adult children, all young adult age, were tested. Her son Aidan came back as a match.
“I was beyond excited,” he said. “She’s so important to me. I want the next 30 years of my life with her. I want her to be able to see my kids.”
The decision wasn’t as clear-cut for Kim, though.
“It’s the hardest thing to do,” she said.
On the day of the surgery, Kim went onto Aidan’s gurney. He was going in for surgery first.
“I just wanted to be close and hold him,” Kim said. “I told him I love him. What do you say to a kid who is going to go into surgery to save his mom?”
“I did it because I love my mom, pure and simple,” he said. She was the one who took him to hockey practice at 6 a.m. and lacrosse tournaments.
“She’s always been there for me so it was nice to be able to do something for her,” he said.
For her part, Kim knows she is blessed to have three children and supportive husband.
“That’s what you need to get through it,” she said.