A son saved his father’s life by donating part of his liver just days before Father’s Day.
Father-of-three Richard Pustorino, 55, from Garden City, New York, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a severe inflammatory bowel condition, when he was 19 years old.
Many years later, he developed a related condition that severely damaged his liver and left him in need of a life-saving liver transplant.
All three of his sons were tested but only one, Tom, 26, was a perfect match.
After much resistance, Richard agreed to let Tom be his donor, and the two spent Father’s Day recovering together in the hospital.
Richard was diagnosed nearly four decades ago with Crohn’s disease, a chronic bowel disease that inflames the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea and blood in the stool.
The symptoms often occur without warning and requires sufferers to find the nearest restroom as soon as possible.
Those with Crohn’s disease can experience complications not related to the digestive tract, including liver disease and liver inflammation.
Richard developed cirrhosis, a late stage of scarring of the liver. About five years ago, his health began rapidly declining.
‘I was an avid golfer and it was painful to play,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Menial tasks – like something in the backyard – was hard to do. When you’re independent and used to doing things the way you want to do them, it’s tough.’
Tom said that the change in his father’s health was more apparent to him than to the rest of his family.
‘I was away at medical school so, for me, the changes were abrupt, while for everyone else, it was gradual,’ he told DailyMail.com.
Tom said he noticed that his father’s skin and eyes became much more yellow-toned and his mind wasn’t as sharp, and it only got worse.
Doctors told Richard that he was in dire need of a liver transplant. All three of his sons were tested, and Tom was declared to be a perfect match.
And while the decision to donate part of his liver was easy for Tom, it wasn’t as easy for his father.
‘I was kind of sad,’ Richard admitted. ‘As a father, you always want to take care of your kids. You don’t want them to take care of you. You don’t want to put them in harm’s way.’
However, after some discussion with the entire family, Richard relented.
Last Tuesday, Richard and Tom underwent the 10-hour operation at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, with Tom donating about 65 percent of his liver.
‘Even on the day of surgery, he said: “You don’t have to do this”,’ Tom said. ‘He really wanted to make sure it was my decision.’
Doctors say both father and son are recovering well and spent Father’s Day together in the hospital.
Within the last month, aside from the liver transplant, Tom married his high school sweetheart Alanna and graduated from medical school.
He said he hopes to complete a fellowship in gastroenterology.
‘It a new life for me,’ Richard said. ‘I got a new life but I got to see [Tom’s] new life with his new wife and I get to see my other two boys.’
Tom added: ‘Obviously no one wants to spend Father’s Day at the hospital, but it was a special one for my father. And I gave him a good gift.’
According to the American Liver Foundation, about 8,000 liver transplants were performed in the US, of which about 330 were from living donors.
Currently, there are nearly 15,000 people were registered on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
Dr Sandy Florman, director of The Recanti/Miller Transplantation Institute at Mount Sinai and Richard’s surgeon, told DailyMail.com that between 10 and 15 percent of people die waiting for a liver transplant.
‘New York City doesn’t do as well as rest of the country in organ donation,’ he said.
‘We hope that when you pass, you leave [your organs] behind for someone else and that we don’t have to use living donors anymore.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Mary Kekatos