Organ recipient dedicates life to spreading awareness

Leader Publications | Ambrosia Nelden
Lonnie Atherton speaks to the Niles Noon Optimist Club about the importance of organ donation.

At first glance, Berrien County resident Lonnie Atherton looks like most healthy men in their 50s.

Lonnie has the tall, broad structure of an athlete, the tan skin of an avid golfer, the booming voice of a man accustomed to public speaking, and the liver of a 20-year-old who saved his life.

“I’ve had the gift of life twice,” Atherton told the Niles Noon Optimist Club Tuesday. “That means I’ve had two transplants, two liver transplants by the University of Michigan.”

In 2000, Atherton was told he had Hepatitis C in his liver. Eventually, the Hepatitis turned into liver cancer.

“I was told that it would degrade my liver to the point that I would need a transplant. That transplant came in 2009 after I was very ill and sick,” he said.

When Atherton received his first transplant, he bounced back quickly. About a month after the surgery, however, he became very ill. So ill, in fact, that the doctors said he was too sick to receive another transplant. Continue reading

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