This Thing Called Life
Episode 06: To Save a Brother with Courtney Schapier

Episode 06: To Save a Brother with Courtney Schapier

October 27, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life, host Andi Johnson speaks with Courtney Schapier, a liver donor, the sister of a liver recipient, and one of the Organ Donation Coordinators at LifeCenter. Upon learning about her brother’s need for a liver, Courtney made the incredibly brave decision to make a difference. Her story is simply amazing!

Episode Highlights: 

  • November 13th-15th is National Donor Sabbath, a time for everyone to recognize the miracle that is an organ, eye, and tissue donation.
  • Courtney has been an Organ Donation Coordinator at LifeCenter for the past 6-7 years.
  • Donation Coordinators handle the medical management and evaluation for organ donors.
  • Amongst other responsibilities, Courtney plays a large part in matching organs to donors.
  • Sometimes, organ donation acts as the silver lining to families that are going through an incredibly hard time.
  • Donation coordination is a 24-hour job because donation does not run on a 9-5 schedule.
  • From the time that a case opens to the time it closes, Courtney is on the clock for 36 hours.
  • Courtney uses CrossFit and a great support system as outlets for the high stress levels of this job.
  • With such a high-stress job, it’s no surprise that there is a high level of turnover.
  • There have been times where the stress of the job has made Courtney question her desire to be here.
  • COVID brought everything to a screeching halt when it first exploded back in March.
  • The sheer amount of unknown information has made the ongoing global pandemic that much scarier.
  • Things have finally begun to get back to normal, meaning more lives are being saved via organ donation.
  • In 2016, Courtney’s brother discovered a huge mass on his liver that required a transplant.
  • Unfortunately, Courtney lost her father when she was only 2 months old, so her brother acted as a father to her.
  • Courtney was informed that she was a donor match for her brother while supporting a family that was pulling life-support.
  • The weight of the situation started to feel heavy when Courtney sat on the pre-op table.
  • Sitting outside the OR doors on the pre-op table, Courtney was rolled back for surgery after only 20 or 30 minutes.
  • There were a handful of signs that something was wrong with Courtney’s brother’s liver long before the doctors caught it.
  • After everything was said and done, it took a 10-hour procedure for Courtney to donate over half of her liver.
  • The first thing that Courtney can remember is getting sick immediately after surgery.
  • Courtney finally got to see her brother when she was transferred to the ICU.
  • It was a complete shift in lifestyle for Courtney from the moment that she found out she was a donor match for her brother.
  • Finding living liver donors is more rare than finding living kidney donors.
  • Both Courtney and her brother fully recovered and are as healthy as they can be today.
  • TX Jet was kind enough to donate its services to fly Courtney and her family out for surgery.
  • After her donation, Courtney was sure that she was at the right job at LifeCenter.
  • Courtney was comforted by the knowledge that everything in her life made her the perfect donor for her brother.
  • This year, Courtney is focusing on being more present when she is with loved ones.
  • The amazing thing about donation and transplantation is the opportunity to potentially save a life.

3 Key Points:

  1. Organ Donation Coordinators manage everything from the moment a donor decides to donate, to the time that the organ is sent to its recipient.
  2. It takes a very special person to not only manage the responsibilities of being a Donation Coordinator, but also the rollercoaster of emotions that come with the job.
  3. Courtney donated just over 50% of her own liver, which was oversized, to begin with, to save her brother’s life.

Resources Mentioned:

Episode 05: The Liver Transplant Process with Dr. Shimul Shah

Episode 05: The Liver Transplant Process with Dr. Shimul Shah

October 13, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life podcast, host Andi Johnson speaks with Dr. Shimul Shah, the head of the Liver Transplant Program at UC Health. Dr. Shah and his team are utilizing ever-evolving medical technologies to help all those facing the liver-transplant process. He knows that it is vitally important to try to understand what the patient is going through so that they can best be served with their health problems.

Episode Highlights: 

  • Dr. Shah runs one of the largest liver transplant programs in the country to help as many people as possible.
  • In his 9th year with UC Health, Dr. Shah and his team have done over 750 liver transplants.
  • COVID has presented some challenges in the world of liver transplantations because of its immunosuppressed patients.
  • There are a number of things that must be considered with the introduction of a global pandemic before conducting transplants.
  • Though they didn’t understand what was happening around the world, Dr. Shah’s team went ahead with multiple transplants.
  • Many healthcare professionals had to come together when making protocols for transplantations during COVID.
  • There has been a lot of success with telehealth and that proved useful for the Liver Transplant Team.
  • After protocols were put in place, liver transplants were resumed at the same rate as before.
  • Programs all over the country were forced to shut their doors for a small period of time while they figured out how to get ahead of COVID.
  • There are more donors in the Midwest and South than there are on the East Coast and West Coast.
  • A national policy of “sickest first” has allowed organs to be shared throughout a wider geographical region.
  • Clinical trials are underway for pumps that pump the livers continuously during travel.
  • The pump presents an opportunity to repair the damage that has been done to organs before transplants are conducted.
  • Because of technology, more organs are being used today that would have never been used 5-10 years ago.
  • Dr. Shah uses complete transparency when he gives his patients past results of treatment options.
  • Patients can donate their livers at much older ages because liver cells constantly repair themselves.
  • Dr. Shah originally wanted to be a liver and pancreas cancer expert, but a fellowship in liver transplant shifted his path if only slightly.
  • Patients know when the care that a doctor shows is authentic and that they are all in on the process.
  • It’s important to talk to patients as people and try to understand what they are going through.
  • Dr. Shah helped lead the Living Liver Donor Program that launched earlier this year.
  • New patients find out how sick they actually are and what all their options are before moving forward.
  • Dr. Shah and his team do everything they can to help people get better without a transplant.
  • During his free time, Dr. Shah enjoys playing tennis, basketball, and taking afternoon naps.
  • COVID has made Dr. Shah’s family’s favorite activities, eating out and traveling, a little tricky.

3 Key Points:

  1. People with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to COVID-19, thus bringing a learning curve to those in the liver transplant field.
  2. Transplant systems all over the country were forced to shut down their programs when COVID first hit, but have since been able to resume transplants after implementing protocols.
  3. Patients with an extensive medical history have benefited greatly from advancements in technology due to the larger amount of organs that are now available.

Resources Mentioned:

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