By Brenda Brand Special correspondent
While not the traditional item asked for at this time of the year, a new liver was the most important wish for Pat and her husband Scott Block, who is a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Pelican Rapids.
Pat’s first symptoms appeared in February of 2017 when she had a cough and felt like she couldn’t catch her breath. After spending four hours at the clinic in Detroit Lakes for what she thought was just a cough, the diagnosis came through that she had NASH liver disease (NonAlcoholic SteatoHepatitis).
Never one to be sick and having never been in the hospital, the coming experiences were new for Pat.
Pat was referred to a gastroenterologist, Dr. Jalil in Fargo for further testing. As her disease progressed Pat had problems with ascites (chronic fluid buildup). At times she would have accumulated so much fluid in her body that they would drain off three liters at a time once and sometimes twice a week. To help combat the discomfort of lymphedema Pat would have her extremities wrapped in ace bandages in many layers. This did offer some relief of the painful symptoms.
Dr. Jalil referred Pat to the University of Minnesota Hospital where Dr. Julie Thompson started the process of evaluation of a liver transplant. After four days of tests and evaluations, it was determined that she could survive the surgery and would have the support of staff and her husband, and the proximity to Fargo, she was approved for a liver and kidney transplant as she was also diagnosed with stage 3 Hepto-renal syndrome kidney disease. This was October of 2017. Now they had to wait for a donor to become available.
In November of 2017, Dr. Julie Thompson called and scheduled an appointment with Pat in Fargo to check and see how she was doing. Scott asked if she had a crystal ball, when she thought a donor would be available. Dr. Thompson joked that Pat should come home with her on a flight that night because you never know when a donor could be available. The next morning the call came! A donor was available and she needed to head to the U of M right away. Just having awakened, Pat had Scott listen in to be sure she was hearing right and that her greatest wish was coming true. Of all of the organs to have transplanted, the liver is the best to have transplanted. It is considered the hardiest and needs the least amount of anti-rejection drugs.
On November 29, Pat went into surgery with the hope that the donor would be a match. Until the surgeon, Dr. Chinnakotla removed the liver from the donor, they are not sure that it would work for Pat. All the preparations were made and fortunately the donor liver was a match. Heading to the operating room at 5:00 p.m., Pat’s actual surgery started at 7:00 p.m., the surgery went longer than they expected and Pat needed 10 units of blood. Because of the blood loss and length of time under the anesthesia, the surgeon opted to not do a kidney transplant. At 2:30 a.m. on the 30th of November, Scott and nine members of the family that were gathered in the waiting area, received word that Pat was out of surgery and things looked optimistic for her. Pat’s diseased liver was taken for research to hopefully find a cure for the disease. Surpassing all statistics, Pat’s breathing tube was removed in less than 48 hours after surgery. Within 24 hours the doctors could see the amazing difference in Pat. Following the surgery, Pat continued to amaze all the doctors with her quick recovery. The usual transplant sequence is to have surgery on 3rd floor along with ICU, then go to the 6th floor and finally to the 7th floor. In another miracle, Pat was able to “skip” the 6th floor and go directly to the 7th floor.
In order to be close to the clinic and hospital, Scott rented an apartment which was close to the U of M for 19 days after Pat’s surgery. When Pat was released from the hospital she joined Scott there until they were allowed to return to Pelican Rapids.
Now at home, Scott continues to support Pat with her 18 different medications, paperwork, appointments, cooking and cleaning. As Pat continues to heal she will need to remain on only one or two anti-rejection medications. The miracles continue for Pat with her kidneys functioning at almost the normal level.
Pat is very grateful for the love and support of the members of Trinity Church, the community, her friends and family, her husband Scott and most of all her Lord and Savior. She knows that without all of their love and care she and Scott would not have been able to make this journey.
In Pat’s own words from her Facebook account is the following.
“2018, what a year! It was a year filled with ups and downs and waiting, waiting for an answer to prayer. Then I received the greatest gift on November 29th when we got a call that there was a liver for me.
“I thank family and friends and all for the prayers, support, cards words of encouragement, visits and on and on. I’m thankful also for the Drs., Nurses, and staff in Fargo, Detroit Lakes, and the University of MN.
I especially thank my husband and best friend, Scott, for all he’s done and continues to do for me. He has been a great advocate for me, manager of meds, chef, paper handler, prayer warrior, etc. I would not be where I am today without him by my side taking such excellent care of me. Thank you love of my life. I am forever grateful. I continue to thank God for this miracle. God is so good. Wishing you all a Happy and Blessed New Year filled with joy and peace.”
Pat would like to encourage everyone to consider becoming an organ donor. There are several ways to accomplish this, the most common is to mark the box on your driver license renewal application or go to organdonor.gov.