Friday, May 15, 2020

Transplant triumph: Three years after brings reflection, change, gratitude

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers with their elderly Yorkshire terrier, Nick, ready for a spin on their bikes.
Leaving Scripps on a record
third day post transplant.
Three years ago this week.

THREE YEARS ago today, Bruce William Keller left Scripps Green Hospital with a new liver and a new lease on life. He was in and out on a record third day. Barely five weeks later, we traveled to our niece's wedding on the Oregon coast.
We'd been on the transplant list for months, slowly climbing up the list, preparing for the phone call that might change our lives.
We'd traveled close to home (no more than two hours away, should the call come) and we'd had our weekly "date night" the evening we received the call that a potential donor had been found.
Transplant tale, part one
That's all chronicled in previous posts in this column and various magazines. (Click on links above and throughout this story.)
While we began the process of getting on the transplant list nearly six years ago, we give special thanks this week.  We know that many patients wait more than five years, that some don't make the cut and that there are deaths while waiting when a proper match is not found.
This photo shows the many medications we needed in weeks
following transplantation. We are down to two anti-rejection
 medications now, plus approved vitamins and minerals.
My nephew's 52-year old sister-in-law died of liver disease last summer, while awaiting transplant in northern California.
My sister's friend lost her husband in Montana in similar fashion before the holidays.
MANY ON the transplant list are called numerous times because they are sent home after bloodwork and other tests reveal the donor liver wouldn't be a good fit. (Body size, blood type, general health, age, etc., are considered.) Several people in my support group have been called numerous times -- one more than six -- then sent home.  Three potential transplantees are usually notified and tested, so we were extremely fortunate that on our first call, tests revealed Keller would be a good match.
Cookie and Keller take a spin on a four-wheeler, on the coast of
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, just before Covid curtailed their travels.  
We were also fortunate to have a brilliant hepatologist and gifted surgeon, both nationally known, who guided us.  We've met dozens of skilled nurses, physician's assistants, radiologists and others who have  helped us along the way.
Transplant tale, part two
Until COVID19, we had resumed our life of travel writing and photography.  We crossed the Atlantic three months after the surgery, and have visited 14 countries since the transplant.
Dr. Jonathan Fisher and Bruce Keller
days after his successful transplant.

WE'VE HAD birthday and anniversary celebrations, and each year on the transplant anniversary, we toast its success (champagne for Cookie; non-alcoholic beer for Keller, who is taking the cautious approach, grateful that his Hepatitis C is history.)
Our travel is on hold now, as with thousands of others of our friends, family and readers. We miss taking off into the wild blue yonder, strolling the boulevards of Paris or Barcelona, or seeing plays in London and New York.
Dr. Catherine Frenette meets regularly with Keller to assess
his progress and suggest adjustments to meds or lifestyle.
But we have high hopes of returning to Montana sometime this summer, and traveling again when we can be sure of a vaccine and safety on the road and in the skies.
Transplant tale, part three
But we are 10 minutes from a world class medical facility with smart, compassionate people on our team. We live in a beautiful part of the world and can wait out the virus surrounded by birds, flowers and beauty.
We take none of this for granted.
Keller and Cookie dressed up for a play
in March, before Covid halted theater.
AND WHILE Covid has put a damper on our life and killed our tradition of several plays a week, we are managing to have a reasonably productive and happy time with biking, Scrabble, reading, exercise, selective TV and spending time with Nick, our surviving Yorkshire terrier, who lost his twin sister Nora two months ago.
We've cancelled our international trips for this
summer and fall, we are following the news and watching the search for a vaccine with hope in our hearts.
 Transplant tale, part four
I asked Keller to reflect on the past three years.
"I'm grateful for so many reasons and to so many people. I have universal appreciation and feel like one very lucky guy," he said.
I echo his sentiments as one very lucky gal.

This vivid plant is called kangaroo paw, and grows in our neighborhood.
It is one of over 500 flower photos Keller has taken since COVID19.
We suggest a hobby to help patch each of us through the pandemic. 
UP NEXT:  What to do during the isolation and boredom of COVID? Why not develop a hobby, or begin one that you've dreamed of pursuing.  Bruce Keller has been a photographer since grade school, and has always loved to photograph flowers. He "amped up" his hobby since the virus and our determination to take a daily bike ride and nature venture together. The new ritual has yielded some lovely results which we'll share next week. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, the arts, family, health and -- soon, we hope -- more of the travel we so love.


  1. San Francisco FollowersMay 16, 2020 at 11:02 AM

    Exciting news! We remember the time and your breathtaking accounts. Congratulations!

  2. The stars were alligned splendidly for you. Bravo.

  3. Lansing-Big Sky TravelersMay 18, 2020 at 1:54 PM

    Wonderful reporting and personal detail....great photos, too!