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Team Marty

Warren man seeking a living liver donor

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry ‘Team Marty’ members (from left) Nancy Bullock, Arlene Molinaro, Barb Yucha, and Delores Berry, surround Marty Yucha, as they support him in his search for a living liver donation.

There’s good news and bad news for Marty Yucha.

His cancer treatments were successful in killing the cancer.

They had the side-effect of killing his liver.

“He was identified with a neuroendocrine tumor in November 2017, in his liver,” Marty’s wife, Barb, said. “He has had four TACE (transarterial chemoembolization) procedures. As a result, the cancer has been destroyed. It has also destroyed his liver.”

Yucha, of Warren, is looking for a living liver transplant … soon.

Also in the mixed news department, the elimination of the cancer made Yucha eligible for a liver transplant. But, his MELD (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) score is 10. On the scale from 6 to 40, that’s pretty good. It also means he is not a high-priority patient. “You have to get sicker before you get on the National Transplant List,” Barb Yucha said. “It’s a terrible, terrible circle.”

Marty will get sicker.

Doctors told him he needs to get a transplant within six months.

“By February we will see a dramatic decline,” Barb Yucha said.

That decline isn’t starting from a really high point – he’s not feeling great now.

“I struggle every day,” Yucha said. “They gave me exercises to do every evening and want me to walk every morning. I’m struggling with my walking. I have to take frequent naps.”

But, he has Team Marty keeping an eye on him and he is fighting. “I’m not giving up,” he said. “I keep going. I can’t give up.”

Because of Marty’s MELD score, he will not be receiving a liver from an organ donor who passes away. The living liver donation process involves finding a willing donor who is a good match. A large portion of that person’s healthy liver would be removed and transplanted into Yucha. The donor’s liver grows back in two to three months and “most donors are back to their normal state of health by about three months after surgery,” according to information from UPMC.

“He really needs a piece of someone’s liver,” Barb Yucha said.

“It does regenerate. The younger you are, the faster it grows back.”

Age is a consideration in the donor process. The donor must be between the ages of 18 ad 55. Other than that, the donor has to be in generally good health, not have any liver diseases, active cancer, HIV, or pulmonary hypertension, and must not engage in drug or substance abuse. Blood type is not an issue.

The final requirement, according to UPMC, is to “have an unselfish desire to contribute to another person’s life in a healthy way.”

“You have to be a giving person – want to give a part of yourself to help someone else go on,” Barb Yucha said.

There are no medical expenses for the donor, according to UPMC, and “most donors can return to work about eight weeks after surgery.”

Anyone who thinks they might be interested in being a living liver donor may visit upmc.com/livingdonorliver for information and livingdonorreg.upmc.com to register, and, if they desire, specify Martin Yucha as a specific recipient. The UPMC Donor Coordinator can be reached by calling (412) 647-5800.

There is an extensive evaluation procedure for anyone who is under consideration as a donor.

Some of those close to him were surprised to hear that Marty is suffering.

“He has still continued to attend the Boy Scouts events,” Arlene Molinaro, a member of Team Marty, said. “He never complained. He’s amazingly strong.”

“He’s such a role model for the Scouts,” Delores Berry, another member of Team Marty, said. “We’re here because he’s given so much to our children. Our boys are very lucky to have Marty as a leader.”

The team members who are joining Marty and Barb in the effort – Nancy Bullock, Molinaro, and Berry – are all connected to Marty through Scouting.

Like most people, transplants were not something the Yuchas knew much about. “It’s not something you think about before you need it or someone you know needs it,” Barb Yucha said.

Finding a willing and suitable donor is the end goal.

Not everyone can be the donor, but everyone can help, according to Team Marty.

“Keep the conversation going,” Berry said.

Marty’s story is on Facebook and Instagram, Barb Yucha said.

Under the guidance of UPMC, the team members are spreading the word to get others thinking about transplants and becoming donors – and spreading the word even farther.

“What a good team to be on,” Marty said.

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