John and his wife Denise came to Cleveland from their home in Pennsylvania on April 5, 2022, for one of John’s regular ultrasound appointments at the Cleveland Clinic. He had been coming to the Clinic regularly for checkups since having his gallbladder removed in 2014. As part of that procedure, John was biopsied and diagnosed with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is caused by fatty buildup in the liver. For 8 years after diagnosis, John managed his condition with diet, exercise, and quarterly appointments at the Cleveland Clinic with his gastroenterologist, Dr. Arthur McCullough.
“My health was better than ever during this time,” John says, “and my liver continued to function just fine.”
John and Denise both retired in early 2021, excited to have more time for travel and for visits with their adult children and their families who lived in Pennsylvania, California, and North Carolina. They were also looking forward to welcoming a second grandchild into the family.
These plans changed suddenly in April of 2022. During his regular checkup, John learned that his otherwise functional liver had hepatocellular cancer. It was a shock, something neither he nor Denise ever anticipated facing.
“Thank goodness I opted to commit to the Cleveland Clinic for my medical needs,” John explains, “because the minute I was identified as having cancer I was referred to the appropriate departments to begin my journey to transplant.”
After a required 6 month waiting period for liver cancer patients, John was listed for transplant. But he would have to wait nearly another six months to receive a transplant. During that time, he underwent multiple cancer treatments including chemo and radiation. This treatment was essential if he was to remain eligible for transplant.
“For the year leading to my transplant my concern was that the cancer would progress or metastasize,” he says.
If it did, a liver transplant would no longer be an option. Fortunately, on March 21, 2023, John received a donor liver offer and was transplanted on the following day.
John is grateful for the care he received from the Cleveland Clinic and for the role of Transplant House throughout his and Denise’s experience. During the year leading up to his transplant, the D’Amores had several short terms stays at the House and they both quickly felt at home here.
“I hoped back then that when the time came, we would be able to reside here,” John says, “Knowing that my wife was developing friendships and had the best possible living arrangements and transportation to and from the hospital comforted me while I was recovering at the hospital. I could not imagine being anywhere else.”
John is at Transplant House now with Denise and he says that living at the House has reinforced his initial feeling “that Transplant House is a very special place to be.” His transplant and recuperation to this point have progressed well and when there have been bumps in the road to recovery, he has received excellent care. The confidence this care has inspired has allowed John to focus on his recovery and to think about the generous gift given to him by his donor: a second chance at life and more time with Denise, their children, and grandchildren. John’s story is a reminder that saying “yes” to becoming an organ donor does more than save and heal the life of the recipient – it also gives their family and friends the priceless gift of more time with their loved one.
“I will never forget the donor who afforded me the gift of life.”