When a life-saving organ begins to die — "If this is it, I accept that"


In 1998, so sick he was at death’s door, Aubrey Goldstein had a liver transplant. It bought him time — saved his life, certainly — but it was also a clock that had begun to tick.

Now 19 years later, freshly retired, he putters around his lovely Glebe home, often exhausted, keeping a slow watch: at age 63, he needs a second liver transplant to survive.

“I will eventually die when my liver fails,” he said, when asked about the prognosis without a new organ.

He knows of what he speaks. Aubrey Goldstein is Dr. Aubrey Goldstein, a lifelong physician and the former president of the Canadian Transplant Association.

And he is alive to the idea that some patients are desperate for their first donated organ — some even die waiting — let alone a second.

“It’s hard,” he says. “It’s difficult to say, ‘Oh, I’m more worthy than someone else.’ I mean, how do you draw the line? How do you balance the scorebook, for people who are looking for their first transplant?”

His first liver was from a cadaver. His best shot this time is to find a live donor — an operation rarely used on adults 20 years ago but successfully done 51 times in Ontario last year. To that end, several family members and friends are being tested to potentially donate part of their livers, knowing the organ will regenerate itself. Continue reading
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