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Portland family seeks living liver donor for father

Ryan Donohue has been battling PSC for about 15 years, which is a disease that can eventually lead to liver failure.

PORTLAND, Conn — Portland father of four, Ryan Donohue, has been battling Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, known as PSC, for about 15 years, which is a disease of the bile ducts that can eventually lead to liver failure.

“There’s no cure for what I have,” he said. “To kind of exert myself like a normal person really tires me out, running around with my kids.”

Now, the search is on for a living liver donor before it’s too late.

His wife Stefanie made a plea to the community on Facebook, hoping someone might join the donor list and be a good fit for her husband and best friend of 16 years.

“The thought of Ryan not being here, especially with four kids, it’s really terrifying and I try not to think about it, but the thought does cross my mind: what if he doesn’t get a new liver?” Stefanie said. “The thought of our kids not having a dad for big events like graduations and weddings and their own babies someday.”

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Stefanie said it’s important that Ryan find a living donor as soon as possible. He’s at a place where a living donor transplant is a viable option; however, he only has a small window of time before he’ll be too sick for a living donor.

“Having a transplant would really allow me to feel the best that I’ve felt in about 20 years. It would give me life back," he said.

Ryan is not alone. More than 118,000 men, women and children need lifesaving organ transplants, according to Donate Life Connecticut.

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Liver transplants are done in two ways. According to Hartford Hospital’s Chief of Transplant Surgery Dr. Glyn Morgan, only 5 percent are done with live donors where a piece of the liver is transferred to the recipient.

"Luckily the liver has the ability to regenerate and so in the donor within 6-8 weeks the organ will regenerate itself to nearly full size," he said.

Ninety-five percent are done with a deceased donor, where the whole organ is transplanted into the patient. But here’s where it gets tricky with waiting for a deceased donor: livers aren’t typically allocated based on how long you’ve waited, it’s based on how sick you are.

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The Donohue family is hoping to find a donor while his body is still healthy enough for a living donor transplant.

“Even if it doesn’t benefit us. There are so many other people that it could benefit and we’re really hoping that it’s just a happy story all around,” Stefanie said.

To be a liver donor, you typically need to be a compatible blood type with the recipient and meet other qualifications. 

To become a living liver donor, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about living liver donation, click here.

To learn more about organ donation, click click here.

Elisha Machado is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at emachado@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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