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Grateful for the gift of life

"It was almost like seeing someone raised from the dead. He looked great!" Father John Georgia

“It was just after Thanksgiving,” Father John Georgia, Pastor of the Church of the Resurrection in Wallingford, Connecticut, recalled, speaking of the November holiday in 2012.

“My colleague said, ‘You look terrible. You are going to a doctor. Now.’ Before I knew it, I was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital with acute liver disease.”

When the team at Yale New Haven, including Michael Schilsky, MD, medical director, Adult Liver Transplant in the Yale New Haven Transplantation Center (YNHTC) and Manuel Rodriguez-Davalos, MD, transplant surgeon, met Father Georgia, he’d been suffering from advanced liver disease for some time. His liver disease progressed so much that it affected his kidneys and he was then in need of both a liver and kidney transplant.

Father Georgia’s colleague and former teacher, The Most Reverend Peter A. Rosazza, also commented on his friend’s condition. “The first time I visited him in the hospital, I walked in and was taken aback. My heart dropped. I looked at him - so thin, frail and jaundiced and thought, ‘He’s not going to make it,’” said Bishop Rosazza.

During his hospitalization, Father Georgia was in and out of the intensive care unit, as well as YNHH’s Transplantation Center which has a special unit dedicated to liver disease patients. The goal was to keep him healthy enough to be able to receive the transplant once the organs became available.

After a long wait, Father Georgia received a liver and kidney from the same donor. After a lengthy surgery, lasting more than 14 hours, and then a recovery and rehabilitation period, he was able to resume his full-time duties at his church and was back to serving his community. A couple of months after his surgery, Father Georgia attended a function at a local church. When he walked in,” commented Bishop Rosazza, “it was almost like seeing someone raised from the dead. He looked great!”

The Yale New Haven Transplantation Center (YNHTC) offers comprehensive, multidisciplinary care and treatment for patients suffering from end-stage organ failure. Transplant services for adults and children include kidney, liver, pancreatic and solid abdominal organ transplant. At YNHTC, the adult patient one-year survival rate for liver transplants is 89 percent and 98 percent for kidney transplants.

“Father Georgia was as sick as one could be,” commented David Mulligan, MD, director of the YNHTC. “There are few places in this country that have the multidisciplinary team and expertise to carry out the successful operation that he went through. I’m proud to say that our team made it possible for someone as sick as Father Georgia to be doing as well as he is today.”

“A few years ago, my future seemed very bleak,” recalled Father Georgia. “Now, my future looks wonderful!”