RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Thousands of Americans are waiting for a liver transplant at any given time. A newly restarted program at VCU Medical Center has the potential to make a dent in that number and save lives faster.
After a five-year hiatus, the Hume-Lee Transplant Center is once again offering living-donor liver transplants. A living donor means the recipient gets the transplant faster, and no waiting on the donor list.
A Henrico man was the first person in the revamped program to receive a living-donor liver transplant at VCU.
“I joked I had one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel,” said 69-year-old Edward Foster.
A family man, Foster has eight kids and 21 grandchildren. He says he even played football at Virginia Union University but this larger-than-life personality spent years with a chronic illness.
A year and a half ago, Foster learned from his doctors he needed a liver transplant to stay alive. At VCU’s transplant center, Foster had the option of trying to find a “living-donor” for the transplant.
Though the hospital hadn’t performed one of them in five years, the new attending transplant surgeon, Dr. Vinay Kumaran, had performed more than 700 in his career.
“In a living-donor transplant you can do the transplant before the patient becomes really sick,” explained Dr. Kumaran. “Because our present allocation system is to give the liver to the sickest patient on the waiting list.”
This surgeon says patients die every year waiting for a liver on the transplant list. That’s why this living-donor program will make a difference.
“Every living-donor transplant will save one life because of the transplant and will allow one liver to go to someone else who needs it,” Kumaran said.
Foster says he broke the news that he needed the transplant to his family during a Friday night dinner. Family members asked about options and learned they could help speed up the process by getting tested. Foster told 8News nearly a dozen family and friends offered their livers.
“Folks from all over the country, and said ‘Pop pop? Yeah, heck yeah we’ll come down and we’ll donate,'” said Foster.
In the end, it was Foster’s youngest child who was the right match.
“It’s just, how soon can we get started? When can we do, who do I call, who do I talk to,” said Rick Foster, Edward’s son and Henrico native.
E. Foster says he feels like him and his wife must have done something right for so many people to come forward wanting to help.
“He told me, he said ‘well you gave me life, it was time I returned the favor,'” said E. Foster.
The dual surgeries happened in July, requiring two surgical teams working for more than ten hours. Two months post-op, the father-son duo says they are feeling good.
“I still have a little bit of pain from soreness because I’m 69. I don’t have my six-pack like I used to,” joked E. Foster.
Despite the pain and scars from surgery, the baby of this Henrico family says now he has a life-saving act, to hold over his brothers and sisters.
“It’s surgery so you’re gonna have a little bit a pain, a little soreness. It comes and it goes but I’ve got my dad,” said R. Foster. “So the trade-off is way more upside.”
VCU’s Hume-Lee Transplant Center has now done two living-donor liver transplants since restarting the program. They say at least three more are in the works right now.