(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Seventeen people in North America die every day waiting for an organ transplant. There aren't enough donors to meet demand.
If you're waiting for an organ, and one becomes available, there is no guarantee it will be a match. Here's the story of a woman who almost lost hope after having to turn down three different donor organs.
For eight months Cheri Alt and her husband Dave waited and waited.
"Very scary. Suspenseful. Incredibly disappointing," says Cheri.
Cheri, who had stage four Bile Duct Cancer, needed a liver transplant.
Cheri's husband Dave says, "We became frightened knowing that the longer she had to wait, the greater the chances were that the cancer would come back."
Three different times doctors called to let them know a donor was available, but every time, they had to say no, no match.
Cheri says, "We thought it was a done deal. We have a liver, come on in. But that's not the way it works."
Dr. David Mulligan from Mayo Clinic says, "Many times we'll bring patients in to potentially get a life saving liver transplant or they'll already be in the hospital because they're sick and they're waiting and we go out to check on a liver and may set it all up. We go out and when we're on site at the donor hospital, we find out, oh, this liver isn't going to work and so we have to call it off."
Transplant Surgeon David Mulligan says, in Cheri's case, they had three false alarms because first, the liver was too big, then too damaged, then infected. The fourth time, however, was a match. But they ran into another issue. The donor organ was on a plane that was iced in and couldn't take off. Even though Cheri was already under anesthesia, the transplant was in jeopardy. Dave was ready to give up hope. Then a surgeon picked up the phone in the operating room.
Dave says, "He looked at me and was talking to Dr. Mulligan and I knew that the liver was on it's way."
After many long months, the wait was over. Cheri received a life-saving transplant. Now her focus is on getting stronger and going home. The day Cheri was interviewed for this story she got the green light to leave the transplant house and go home. She and Dr. Mulligan want to stress the importance of organ donation. They say your donation can save lives.