Friday, May 19, 2017

Transplant tale: Miracle unfolds with donor's gift, crack hospital, grateful couple

Bruce William Keller and Christene Cosgriffe Meyers, with Yorkies Nick and Nora, put their beloved Montana on hold for this year, as they awaited a donor for his liver transplant.  "The call" came days ago and the surgery was successful.
They might make Montana by fall. 


Keller broke records at Scripps, leaving
the ICU in a single day and the hospital
in three days after intricate surgery.
Transplant complete, long follow-up begins:
 Keller and Cookie are still Scripps regulars.

(This begins a two-part report on the journey to and through  liver transplantation. Please join us next week for the second segment, as our successful story unfolds.)


A WEEK AGO, we savored our traditional Friday Date Night -- a drive along the coast, then appetizers at La Jolla Shores here in sunny southern California.  Sauvignon blanc for me; non-alcoholic beverage for Keller. We toasted and wished for the transplant: "May it be soon." We clinked glasses. A discreet kiss.
Three top transplantation surgeons assisted in the surgery.  At left, a pleased
 Dr. Randolph Schaffer follows up with Keller days after the operation. 
It was a lovely date night -- we always dress up -- and we strolled the beach for sunset, then returned home for "Jeopardy." The ritual unfolded in normal fashion -- supper for the Yorkies, a walk for the four of us, chats with neighbors then "Hawaii Five-O." (Cookie watched the original Jack Lord 1970s classic with her beloved gran, and the newer version is part of the Friday rites.) 
NICK AND NORA, Keller and Cookie were tucking in, yielding to the arms of Morpheus, when "The Call" came.
Scripps Green Hospital is among the nation's finest.  Its staff of doctors
represents the nation's finest medical schools, including Columbia, Baylor,
Harvard, Duke, Johns Hopkins, University of California San Francisco, etc.
A member of Scripps Green Hospital's crack transplant team advised that a potential donor had been found.  
He promised to call again in an hour to set an arrival time, if the donor liver looked favorable. This first call was to alert us to stand by.
Cookie and Keller travel internationally several times
a year, here at the Pyramids in Egypt. That will resume!
LONG-AGO, in college, he contracted the  Hepatitis C virus, perhaps during treatment for a sports injury. Although dormant for years, it had badly damaged Keller's liver. While miracle drug, Harvoni, leveled the virus, alas, the damage remained.
We knew we were climbing up the
liver transplant list at Scripps, where 19 months ago, we began the circuitous journey of tests, evaluations, scans, probes, blood work, MRIs, conferences and dozens of visits, all part of a meticulous plan toward eventually receiving transplantation and regaining a normal, healthy life. That he would have a competent, healthy care-giver was of prime importance. I, too, was vetted and passed my tests!
Cookie and Keller
love to dance and
will soon be back.
  IN LESS THAN two hours from that first call, we were at Scripps -- admitted at midnight through a locked front door by a security officer who whisked us to the "prep room."
  We knew we were not the only ones called.  More than a single potential recipient's family is alerted to be sure that a proper match is made and the generous gift not wasted.  All are "prepped" while the best match is determined.  Many factors play into the decision, including blood type and size. (A petite Asian woman, for instance, would not be a good match with a linebacker.)   Many recipients endure multiple preps -- four and five are not uncommon. One family was prepped 13 times. 
Keller's last birthday was a cause for
celebration in Vancouver. This next
birthday may find us in Montana and he
 plans to walk his only daughter, Kristen,
 down the aisle in September of 2018.
Sunset over La Jolla Shores is a Friday tradition for Cookie
and Keller.  This photo was taken the evening we got "the call."
BY NOW it was 1 p.m. The prepping was done. We'd completed many forms. Labs were taken, medical directives filed. We met with surgeon Dr. Jonathan Fisher, and one of the pair of anesthesiologists. Both told us what to expect. We were prepared to rock and roll.  Once we'd wrapped our heads around the fact that we needed the transplant, we were ready. Without a transplant, liver disease patients usually don't live past five years.
Date night became transplant night, as
Cookie and Keller stepped into the unknown.
"We should know by 2 p.m.," surgeon Michelle Ganyo assured us.  She rushed in an hour later, waving her cell phone, and hollered "It's a go." We were elated. A quick kiss -- not good-bye -- but "see you soon." Misty eyes.
The surgical team was assembled. Keller was quickly dispatched to dreamland and the arms of Morpheus which eluded us six hours earlier.
For Cookie, a lonely night in the waiting room began.

NEXT UP:  The  passing this week of Cookie's favorite James Bond, Roger Moore, prompts a reminiscence of a whirlwind five-day trip to London in 1977 for the premiere of "The Spy Who Loved Me" in London's
Roger Moore: remembered from a 1977 interview as
witty, handsome, self-deprecating and utterly charming.
Odeon Square.  The date was 7-7-77 and  Cookie was one of five film reviewers invited by United Artists' Cubby Broccoli to privately interview Moore. She was also among three dozen U.S. travel writers invited to receptions for Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee, during which she met the Queen Mum and Princess Anne (but not the Queen, although she had practiced her curtsy to perfection!) Remember to laugh, learn and live, and catch us weekends for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts and health. We'll update you on the transplant progress next time!



  1. Scottsdale FollowersMay 19, 2017 at 7:20 PM

    Remarkable. Moving. This is so important. My father received a liver 13 years ago and we are in contact with the loving family. Looking forward to more of your story. Such good writing and descriptions.

  2. Mississippi MeanderersMay 19, 2017 at 9:34 PM

    Quite remarkable. Thanks for sharing. We have marked our licenses!

  3. Toronto TravelersMay 20, 2017 at 1:52 PM

    This touching and informative saga should be in a medical journal or somewhere people can find it..... I think it has the beginnings of a helpful book which would also be good for you! Love your outlook. May you two go forth for many more good years.

  4. Montana FollowersMay 21, 2017 at 6:02 PM

    Billings Fans say bravo and brava to our friends. Although we do not know them well, they are "superstars" as we follow their informed, upbeat and endearing saga is priceless....more, more more!

  5. California DreamersMay 22, 2017 at 9:36 AM

    We love Scripps, too..... Daughter being treated now and we tip our hats to the team -- and you two troopers! Keep sharing.

  6. Transplant Fans in FargoMay 11, 2020 at 3:32 PM

    Just caught up to this story and will read the whole chronicle. Wow! Nearly three years now, and we are so thrilled for you. Thanks for sharing.