In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 12, 2016

Transplant Patient Using Second Chance to Help Others

By In the Loop

Brian McIntyre is making the most of his second chance at life by doing what he can to make an impact on the lives of others.Brian McIntyre doesn’t shy away from talking about the situation he’s in and how he got here. After living “a hard life of liquor and drugs for many years,” as chronicled in the Ottawa (Illinois) Times, he tells us he showed up at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus one day in 2009 out of desperation. “I had hepatitis C and was in stage four liver disease,” he says.

While his care team worked to stabilize him, Brian worked to find the physical and emotional strength to go through the process of qualifying for a liver transplant. “I was so sick that all I wanted to do was go back home, sit in my driveway, enjoy the sun, and say goodbye to my mother,” he says. “I just wanted to die.” Brian’s care team, however, wasn’t going to let that happen. “The nurses told my wife, ‘Do not let him leave Rochester,’” he recalls.

Brian and his wife did stay at Mayo, a decision that paid off when Brian received a phone call telling him a new liver had been found. Although the ensuing transplant went as planned, the hepatitis virus that was still in Brian’s system prevented the liver from taking hold. “It (the hepatitis) eventually attacked my new liver, so I remained ill,” he says.

Then, as his care team worked to bring him back to health, the hepatitis that had derailed Brian’s transplant “miraculously” disappeared. “I got a call from Dr. Kymberly Watt one day, and she tells me, ‘Brian we don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re hepatitis C-free,’” he recalls. “I have no other explanation but to call that a miracle,” Brian tells us.

A miracle that would make Brian eligible for a second liver transplant. Six months later, his phone rang again, and it was Charles Rosen, M.D., a liver transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic. A liver would be available from another patient after that patient received a liver transplant. There was just one catch. The living donor was born with a “rare disease that would make the liver give out in about 15 years,” the Ottawa Times reports. Brian recalls the conversation going something like this: “Dr. Rosen says to me, ‘Brian, do the math. You’re 66 years old. We can put this organ in you and you can potentially live another 10 to 15 years.’” It was a deal Brian was willing to take. “I told Dr. Rosen, ‘I’m in. I’m on my way,’” he says.

Six years later, Brian’s making the most of his second chance at life by doing what he can to make an impact on the lives of others. One way he’s accomplishing that is through his new career as an addiction counselor, which allows him to help others overcome their own drug and alcohol addictions. It’s work he takes “great pride in.” And he says it wouldn’t be possible without the help he received from Mayo Clinic. “If it wasn’t for Mayo, my care team, and a 12-step program, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now,” he says.

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Tags: Dr. Charles Rosen, Dr. Kymberly Watt, Hepatitis, liver transplant, Patient Stories

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