Son donates to father as University of Utah performs their first live-donor liver transplant

Posted at 3:37 PM, Feb 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-28 17:37:44-05

SALT LAKE CITY – While many organs are donated after a person passes away, University of Utah Health Care recently performed their first live-donor liver transplant.

It’s a fairly rare operation, as under four percent of all liver transplants in America are performed using live donors.

"A young, healthy donor of [his or her] own volition agrees to undergo an operation to have part of his or her liver removed, and at that very same day have it transplanted into a recipient,” said Doctor Robin Kim, Chief of the Division of Transplantation and Advanced Hepatobiliary Surgery at University of Utah Health Care.

Jason Clark said when he learned he could possibly save his father’s live, it was an easy choice.

"Well, there actually wasn't a lot of hesitation between my wife and I once we decided that we were going to do it," Clark said.

Lynn Clark, 57 of Logan, contracted hepatitis C in 2005 from a blood transfusion following a car crash, and for the last three years he has suffered from cirrhosis of the liver.

All three of his children wanted to be a donor, but only Jason’s blood type matched.

Doctor Kim performed the back-to-back surgeries on February 16. It wasn't until the next morning that Jason knew they were successful.

"When he was done, the next day he came walking into my room, and I hadn't even tried to move yet,” Jason Clark said. “I was still stuck in bed, so just seeing him be able to get up and walk around, then I knew we had done an awesome thing."

A living donor liver transplant is a major undertaking that takes a lot of resources, trained staff and coordination. But, that complexity comes with life-changing consequences.

"The big factor is that we have created an environment where patients who would otherwise not get a liver in time are able to get a life-saving organ, much faster than they would by normal means,” Kim said.

Experts say the donor will regenerate 90 percent of what was removed during the course of two to three months, and the transplanted partial liver will regenerate within the recipient as well.

The Clarks said they hope to do a lot more outdoor activities like walking and going to the zoo once the healing is complete, and they have a trip to Disneyland planned for 2017.

Jason Clark said he wanted his children to have a relationship with their grandfather, as his grandfather had health issues that prevented them from being as close as he might have liked.

"I knew right away that I wanted to give that opportunity for my kids to be able to have their relationship with my dad, so that he wasn't just an old guy on the couch, but he was someone that they could talk to, that they would learn from and get to know."