A Second Chance in Life

To understand the importance of today, I need to reflect upon the significance of another day.

February 8, 1996 was almost Jennifer Chang’s death day. Without a transplant of a healthy liver, Jennifer would die within hours as her poisoned liver continued to shut down. Finally, her family received the news they had prayed for – a match was found. Scott’s liver was flown from Valley Medical Center in Fresno to University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center.

The UCSF transplant team prepared to do an emerging surgical technique to provide Jennifer with a portion of Scott’s liver intended to sustain her life long enough to give her own damaged liver a chance to heal and regenerate.

(NOTE: This was the first time the technique, known as an "auxiliary transplant," was to be performed at UCSF with the expectation that the damaged liver will heal itself. Only one other transplant center in the United States had performed a similar procedure at this time. )

Jennifer received the left lobe of Scott's liver, and another UCSF transplant patient received the larger portion of Scott’s liver in a standard liver transplant procedure.

In the auxiliary transplant, Scott’s liver was placed alongside Jennifer's damaged liver, giving her the chance of living without the need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life. If there were enough healthy cells remaining in her damaged liver, Jennifer’s liver would be able to regenerate and supplant Scott’s liver over a period of several months. If the damaged liver proved unable to heal, then Scott’s liver would grow and supplant the damaged liver.

"We're giving her own liver a chance to recover," Dr. Emond said. "The livers are placed side by side in competition for blood flow. The healthiest organ eventually will dominate."

After Jennifer underwent the procedure on February 8th at UCSF, Emond estimated that the ability of the damaged organ to heal won't be known for about six months. No other organ in the body has this ability to grow or reduce in size as needed.

The doctors noted that Scott’s liver in this case saved the lives of two patients and other of his organs saved the lives of three others -- a heart transplant recipient, a kidney-pancreas recipient, and a kidney recipient.

Jennifer remained in serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit at UCSF Medical Center, needing further procedures over the next few days and weeks. Sam Chang, Jennifer’s father, states that he watched the blood flow from Scott’s liver surge into Jennifer’s damaged liver, on a computer monitor after the procedure.

Jennifer’s damaged liver did regenerate and eventually dominated Scott’s liver. In a few months, she underwent another surgery to remove the portion of Scott’s liver. She was able to stop taking anti-rejection drugs and continued to live a vibrant life.

Reconciliation is the process of finding a way to make two different realities exist, or be true at the same time; to accept the reality; to redeem the future.

And that is what took place today for our family, and for Jennifer and her parents, Sam and Rita Chang. We experienced reconciliation with two different realities that are conflicting yet true at the same time – Scott is not here, and because of that, Jennifer is here. Experiencing reconciliation doesn’t diminish or heighten either reality. The Chang family feels deep sorrow that our only son died, and we share in their great joy that their only daughter lived. Life coming from death is a beautiful example of redeeming the future.

Perhaps the Psalmist’s words best reflect the meeting of our families ~

“Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Psalm 85:1

(The above account is taken, in part, from a press release from UCSF dated February 9, 1996.)