He gave her a portion of his liver. They prepared for surgery in the same ward and started their recoveries in the same wing, but they didn’t see each other or know each other’s names. On Dec. 12, Yuri Genyk, MD, professor of clinical surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and chief of the division of hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery and abdominal organ transplantation at Keck Medicine of USC, and Navpreet Kaur, MD, assistant professor of clinical surgery at the Keck School, performed a successful liver transplant. On March 5, the donor and the recipient finally got to meet each other.
“I don’t know much about her. Just that she’s 29. She could have a long life after this,” said Damian Delaney, a high school teacher who stepped up to become an anonymous liver donor. “I’ve thought about her and prayed for her so many times.”
Breana Shaw, the recipient, had spent her recovery wondering too. She had been on the transplant list for three years and given up hope when she got the call.
“I just thought I would be sick for the rest of my life, and I would just have to make the best of it,” she explained. “I was shocked that someone I didn’t even know would be willing to give a part of themselves so I could have a transplant. It’s the most beautiful thing.”
Shaw walked in and all nervousness was gone. The two immediately hugged and kept hugging.
“I’ve waited for this day for so long!” Shaw exclaimed.
And then they sat down to talk, two strangers with one incredible thing in common. They bonded over the challenges of recovering from major surgery: Delaney, an ultramarathon runner, slowly working his way back to five-mile runs, and Shaw going on longer and longer walks with her dachshund.
“I feel like ‘Thank you’ is not enough,” Shaw said to Delaney. “I’m eternally grateful. I promise not to waste this chance.”
“I’m just so happy you’re doing so well,” Delaney replied. “Meeting you has made everything worth it.”
Interested living donor candidates can contact Transplant Coordinator Ana Lily Padilla, RN, BSN, at (323) 442-7403, for more information, or visit www.usclivingdonor.org to fill out an application.
— Lex Davis
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about being a living donor?
Delaney: When you do a loving act, the act itself is its own reward. Anything worthwhile in life is difficult. So no, it’s not an easy thing to step forward and donate, but the level of satisfaction you get is life-changing. It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. To know that you can do something that’s going to benefit someone else … What greater gift is there? So if you feel compelled to do it, don’t be afraid. Reach out and take steps.
Shaw: I think everyone should be an organ donor. You can’t take anything with you, and you could help somebody out. As for being a living donor, I think it does take a really special person. I always thought of living donation as being for a relative or a friend. It really shocked me that a complete stranger would do that for someone.
I think that if you have any interest in it, or feel that in your heart, you should find out more information. Or even becoming aware of it — so many people have no idea that living donation is even possible for the liver.
I’m really grateful.