Chris Nutter thought the jig was up. That all the preparation he and his care team at Mayo Clinic had put into surprising his daughter Mackenzy was foiled by bad timing. "They were sneaking me into the hotel, and my future son-in-law was standing right in the lobby with his groomsmen," Chris tells us. "So I got busted."
Luckily, Mackenzy wasn't there to spot her dad, but the reaction from Chris' future son-in-law was a pretty good indicator of what was to come. "He had tears in his eyes. I thought he was going to collapse," Chris tells us. "He looked at me and said, 'The only thing Mackenzy has said she wanted for her wedding was for you to be here to walk her down the aisle, and she didn't think that was going to happen. It's beyond belief that you're here right now.'"
Just three weeks before, Chris was in a hospital room at Mayo Clinic in Florida recovering from a combined liver and kidney transplant. "It was actually my second liver transplant," Chris tells us. "My first one lasted almost 15 years, but I recently developed a blood clot that led to some scarring of that liver, so my care team decided I needed a new one." He also needed a kidney transplant because of damage caused by immunosuppressants.
Before they started the transplant, though, Chris gave his care team at Mayo Clinic one requirement. "I told them my daughter was getting married on Aug. 30, and that one way or another, I was going to be there," he says. "Drs. Raj Satyanarayana, Shennen Mao, Burcin Taner and my transplant care coordinator, Jennifer Ayers, said they'd do their best to make it happen."
The stars aligned and Chris had his transplant on Aug. 3, 2019, just 27 days before the wedding.
All that was left now was for Chris to recover in time to fly to New York, which would prove easier said than done. "We expect complications because they can happen with any transplant, but especially with re-transplants," Dr. Mao says. Chris was no exception, developing a bile leak post-transplant. "In the grand scheme of things, his bile leak was a relatively minor complication," Dr. Mao explains. "We just sent him to New York with a drain in place and told him we'd take care of it more when he got back after the wedding."
With that, Chris boarded a plane for Lake George, New York, to give Mackenzy the surprise of her life. "My daughter had no clue," Chris tells us. "Nobody knew except my son and my wife. My son was actually supposed to walk her down the aisle holding an iPad so I could watch from Mayo Clinic. I wanted to come out and meet her just as he was about to do that, but her photographer advised against that."
Instead, Chris walked in to Mackenzy's hotel room just before the wedding. The moment was captured in a Facebook video. "She immediately started crying. I immediately started crying," Chris says. "She had to re-do her makeup. It was a beautiful thing."
For all who'd had a hand in making it happen. "The picture he sent to us really speaks a thousand words to what we're trying to do in transplant," Dr. Mao says. "Our goal is to get our patients back to doing what they love, and for Mr. Nutter that was being with his family. We were all so pleased we could help make that happen."
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