My name is Larry Bologna and I have worked for a hospital for almost 27 years. I am a liver recipient.
Although I was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1994, I’ll begin my story in 2000. That is when I learned that I had a small growing tumor on my liver. Initially, it was a “wait and see” situation. Finally, the tumor was aspirated and it was negative. That was good news, except that eventually it became cancerous. My liver was shot from hep C, so removing the tumor surgically was not an option.
Transplant was my only option. Getting a liver sounded impossible to me, unless a relative would do it. My sister said OK, but she wasn’t medically suitable. I got on the transplant list in July 2005.
My dilemma was that if I didn’t get a transplant before the cancer spread, I would be off the list. The tumor started to grow but I had chemoablation, which is chemotherapy put directly into the tumor to shrink it. I felt like I was falling off the cliff! This happened one more time before I got the call for transplantation.
I got the call at 3 a.m. on Sunday, November 20, 2005. I thought only bad news comes at that hour. How wrong I was. Dr. Samstein from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia said, “I think I may have a liver for you.” I was so groggy, I thought, “Who needs a liver? Oh yeah, me!” The doctor said, “Get here as quickly as you can, but don’t get into an accident.” It was like déjà vu from when I rushed my wife to the hospital for the birth of our first son.
I remember being wheeled into the operating room and thinking about my donor’s family. They were so sad and my family was so happy that I had this chance at life. After my surgery, I welled up with tears every time I thought about my donor and her family. She was only 21.
I still don’t know the identity of the donor’s family; maybe someday? I thank God, Dr. Samstein (my surgeon), Dr. Robert Brown (my hepatologist), Dr. Hatefi, and my family. A super gigantic, enormous, extraordinary, monumental, fantastic, thank you to all donor families.
We hear the words “thank you,” said casually and often. However, “thank you” from an organ recipient is monumental! Because of the donor family, I am celebrating my 10th liver anniversary. I have seen my 7-year-old boy turn 17 and my 11-year-old boy turn 21. You can’t say a big enough thank you for those years of happiness and joy.
How do I show my appreciation for this gift of life? I appreciate each day. I take good care of my donated liver and exercise regularly. I try hard to help in my job, especially anyone who is anxious about his or her lab results or other health care situations.
Recently, I was treated with one of the new hep C medications. I am now free of the virus. This was my fourth treatment. My motto is, “Never, never, ever give up!”
What three adjectives best describe you?
Tenacious, helpful, honest
What is your greatest achievement?
The birth of my two boys
What is your greatest regret?
Not being a teacher
What keeps you up at night?
If you could change one thing about living with viral hepatitis, what would it be?
Letting others know that a healthy lifestyle makes a big difference
What is the best advice you ever received?
Go see Dr. Brown, my hepatologist
What person in the viral hepatitis community do you most admire?
Dr. Robert Brown at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
What drives you to do what you do?
What is your motto?
Never, never, ever give up!
If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?
If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?
A dog, because they are always so caring and loving