Photo: Rocklin resident William Teal traveled to Pleasanton last month to meet the family of 18-year-old Octavio Ortega. Last year, Ortega’s family agreed to donate his liver after he was killed in a vehicle accident. The long-time steel fabricator had been awaiting an organ transplant since 2009.
His cancer behind him, William Teal now looks forward to “another 20 years” of life.
But what’s even better, Teal says, is that he recently met the family of the person who made that possible.
A liver transplant saved the life of the 58-year-old Rocklin resident.
Earlier this month, with his wife Jennifer at his side, Teal met the family of his liver donor for the very first time. The meeting took place at an event to honor donor families held by the California Transplant Donor Network, the nonprofit organization which links organ and tissue donors with the thousands of people waiting for an organ transplant.
Robust, and plain speaking, life began to change for the long-time steel fabricator in 2009. In a rare visit to a doctor, a routine X-ray turned up “something on my liver.”
It turned out to be liver cancer, Teal recalled.
“It hit me like a whole truckload of bricks,” he said.
Though he had felt tired at times and sometimes experienced a pain in his side, there was nothing prior to that day that suggested a health problem that would turn his life around so quickly.
As it turned out, replacing his diseased liver was his best option.
Teal was soon placed on the national waiting list for a liver transplant – a list which as of April 13 contains about 13,500 names. Those who are sickest get a priority, but because of the donor shortage it can take years before someone receives a transplant.
Teal’s wait would become a roller coaster of emotion.
He was forced to quit smoking after 42 years. Before the cancer, he and Jennifer, with whom he had a longtime relationship, had been making plans to marry. Now he made her an offer.
“I told her it was her chance to walk away,” he said, adding they were married in April 2009.
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