Liver transplant provides new lease on life
Dec. 7 is a day that will live in very personal high esteem for Marty Yucha.
About five years ago, Yucha had successful cancer treatments. But, those treatments gave him a new problem — they killed his liver.
“This basically started in 2015,” Marty’s wife, Barb, said. “When you think about the day-to-day, it has not been easy.”
As his health deteriorated, Yucha and his team knew a living donor would be the best option to get him well.
“The public does not talk about living donors nearly enough,” Barb said. “You don’t have to be dead to be a donor. You can be a live donor. Anyone can do that.”
“Our campaign … we had people searching everywhere,” Marty’s wife, Barb, said. “There were a few people that did register. They had been eliminated. We were praying that somebody would answer the plea.”
A donor found them.
Anthony is a health care worker from Connecticut. He likes to help. He had previously donated a kidney and bone marrow.
“Two years ago, he went to UPMC Montefiore for evaluation because he was ready to donate another organ,” Barb said. “He passed.”
According to Barb, Anthony does not want to have children, and helping people live their lives is his way of living on. “What a nice kid. I think that’s admirable all the way around.”
Live donations were largely put on hold for a year by COVID-19, but Anthony was found to be a match for Marty.
His arrival in the Yucha’s lives came just in time. Marty had been told he needed a transplant by February. He was tired all the time. “I was starting to get pretty sick,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have had the transplant…”
Around Thanksgiving, doctors contacted the Yuchas to let them know there was a donor.
The donor, they didn’t know anything about him (even that he was a him) at that point, had selected Dec. 7, 2020.
That decision had nothing to do with history and World War II.
“He said he was on a school break then,” Marty said. “Pearl Harbor didn’t even cross his mind.”
A portion of Anthony’s liver was removed and transplanted into Marty.
“We were down there the entire month of December,” Barb said. “We came home Jan. 3.”
After the surgery, Anthony agreed to meet Marty.
“When they met it was three months after the surgery,” Barb said. “It was a great experience.”
“Just amazing,” Marty said.
“They had just had their checkup,” Barb said. “Both of their livers have grown to fill the void already.”
Anthony is doing well.
“Anthony was in the hospital for 10 days,” Barb said. “He said it was pretty tough. Tougher than the kidney or the bone marrow. He got the OK to start running again, so he was happy.”
“They said, ‘Now we’re related. We’re brothers forever,'” Barb said. “He seemed to really enjoy seeing that he was now part of a larger family.”
And, he was pleased to see that he had done some good.
“Anthony was so happy to see him healthy,” Barb said.
The personal connection left it’s mark on Marty.
“Because I’ve met Anthony, I feel like I have to take care of his liver,” Marty said.
Anthony gained new family. Marty will be able to spend more time with the family he already had.
He is doing well.
“I feel a lot better than I felt the last four years,” Marty said. “I was really starting to fail – mostly sitting in my chair.”
“Getting out and walking… it feels good,” he said.
“They said walking is the absolute best thing for him to do,” Barb said.
Marty is doing that — about half a mile a day.
Marty doesn’t have to watch what he eats — for the most part.
“As sick as he was, there are no diet restrictions,” Barb said. “No raw fish, no raw meat. No pomegranate. Other than that he’s unrestricted on his diet.”
“Five years is pretty fast to get sick, have a transplant, and feel better,” Barb said. “Marty has gotten off a lot of his medication. It’s down to a manageable level. I’m not his nurse anymore.”
The next step is an important one for Marty.
He has an appointment for June. “They should release him of all the restrictions,” Barb said hopefully.
“I’m going to try to golf,” Marty said.
“He’s already signed up for the league,” Barb said.