‘Selfless’ Patient Able to Continue Helping Others After Transplant

Ed Nelson was in severe pain and ready to give up his fight against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, when doctors walked in and told him they'd found his lifeline.

When doctors told Ed Nelson he needed a new liver and kidney, he initially didn’t believe he deserved both transplants. His family and his care team at Mayo Clinic convinced him otherwise.

Ed Nelson was lying in his hospital bed in the intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus. He was in severe pain and ready to give up his fight against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Then doctors walked in and told him they'd found his lifeline.

It was a conversation that almost didn't take place due to Ed's selflessness. As Rochester's KTTC-TV reports, when Ed's doctors at Mayo originally told him he needed both a new liver and new kidney, Ed said thanks, but no thanks. His reason? "There were probably more important or younger people who needed a liver transplant more than I did," he tells the station.

His family, however, convinced him it was time for him to do something for himself. "I understood where he was coming from because he has always been a selfless person," Ed's youngest son, Alex Nelson, tells KTTC. "But at the same time, I did not agree with it at all. I mean, he was my dad. And if he needed organs, he was going to get organs." Ed's care team at Mayo Clinic agreed and did everything they could to make that happen.

"I think the hardest part for me was waiting for organs," Ed's wife, Kristie, tells the station. "I literally felt like for six months, I was with my phone in my hand the whole time. … I'd wake up at night and think I heard my phone ringing."

In March 2017, Ed and his health reached their breaking point. "They put me on dialysis because my kidneys were basically done," he tells KTTC. A few days later, Ed thought he was done. "I told [Kristie] I was giving up," he says. "I was in so much pain, I couldn't do anything more."

Two hours later, a team of doctors led by Charles Rosen, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Transplant Center in Rochester, walked into Ed's hospital room. "It was Dr. Rosen that said, 'Mr. Nelson? We have organs for you,'" Ed tells KTTC. "I looked at him, and I said, 'Are you kidding me?' And he said, 'I don't kid about organs.'"

With his new liver and kidney in place, Ed's not kidding around about paying things forward by helping others in need of organ transplants. Just last weekend, he hosted his "first birthday" post-transplant with family and friends, members of his care team at Mayo, and "staff from the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester," KTTC reports. One of the highlights of the night, according to the station, was a fundraising raffle with all proceeds going to the Gift of Life Transplant House. "Every day is a great day when I wake up," Ed tells KTTC.

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