Dave Davis, New Life and Sharing a Long-Held Passion for Journalism One Year After Transplant

What do you do on your transplant anniversary? 

The day a patient receives their life-saving organ, eye, or tissue transplant, is one of the most important days of their life. Some patients choose to have a yearly celebration with family and friends or even go on a vacation, while others mark it with quiet reflection. 

Our volunteer, Dave Davis, spent his first transplant anniversary at Transplant House doing what he loves—teaching journalism—but which Dave had also worried he might lose in his chance at renewed life. He reflected that the drive to Transplant House was the same route he took one year ago on his way to his sixth transplant offer—the one that would change his life completely.

Four years ago, Dave and his wife were sitting in the Crile Building at the Cleveland Clinic. Dave was undergoing test after test for a possible liver transplant.  Over the previous few years, he had been feeling sicker and sicker and the specialists at the Cleveland Clinic had finally identified why.  Now on medications and under specialty care he was starting to feel better. Nevertheless, his Hepatologist insisted he needed to be evaluated. While it was important for Dave that he learn about his medical condition and how a liver transplant could help him survive, he also needed to talk about how he would continue to live and what his new life might look like. 

Dave had been a reporter at The Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, for 20 years before he became a Journalism Fellow at Youngstown State University, where he was working at the time of his transplant evaluation. Journalism is Dave’s passion and teaching it to college students became a passion too. Ironically, long before he needed a transplant himself, he had written critically acclaimed stories about the Organ Transplant System and affected policy at UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing, a National Organization that creates policies for Organ Transplantation). Now, on the other end of those stories as a patient, he faced the likelihood that he would have to stop doing the work he loved.

“Do I really need a transplant?” he asked. “I love what I do and I can’t imagine not doing it.” Adjusting to the reality of needing a transplant was hard, but so too was giving up his beloved career to survive. It became a process of adjustment and grieving the changes, all while he continued to wait.

On September 29, 2020, Dave Davis received his Liver Transplant! One year has gone by and he said he has so much to be grateful for, including a new grandchild he would not have otherwise known. He is so appreciative of his donor, his family and friends, and his Cleveland Clinic Transplant team. He’s also thankful to live life fully once again. 

As he sat in the living room of our community space at Transplant House, the beauty of that afternoon was not lost on those who shared the moment with him. One year ago to the day, he was receiving a liver transplant—and now he was giving a powerful presentation to five Case Western Reserve University Medical Graduate Students. Dave was teaching them about lessons learned as a journalist and as a transplant patient, such as the importance of listening with empathy, and how to write stories about the experiences of the patients and caregivers who stay at Transplant House as part of their journey. This time, he could talk about his own transplant journey too.

Life has come full circle for Dave. He is healthy enough to teach medical college students journalism techniques to capture the stories of patients and caregivers in our “Empathy Project” exactly one year after his transplant. This is how Dave celebrated his Transplant Anniversary: living his life, doing the educational mentorship he loves, and sharing his own journey in order to help others. 

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