With the end of the school year now here, many Weston children are looking forward to spending their summer vacations on the beach or perhaps at a sleepaway camp.
But not Will Corcoran.
The 15-year-old Weston teen is at home fighting for his life while waiting for a liver transplant.
Will was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus, which clogs the airways and leads to life-threatening lung infections. The mucus can also affect the pancreas and liver.
Because of cystic fibrosis and an onset of cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, Will’s liver is approximately 10 pounds larger than normal and is not properly cleaning his blood.
According to his mother, Bean Corcoran, the ammonia level in Will’s blood is exceedingly high and as a result, he is experiencing memory loss and extreme exhaustion, which caused him to miss much of school this year.
He has also stopped playing contact sports and is suffering from insomnia.
“Will has irreversible damage to his liver and needs a transplant as soon as possible,” she said.
Will is registered with UNOS, the United Network for Organ Sharing, and is on a waiting list for those needing liver transplants. He can accept a liver transplant either from a cadaver or living donor.
Will is not high on the donor list right now, but Ms. Corcoran is hoping he will move up quickly. Ideally, she would like him to have a transplant this summer.
According to the American Liver Foundation, there are 17,000 active candidates waiting for liver transplants. Because there are far more patients in need than there are available organs, Ms. Corcoran is reaching out to the Weston community for any aid and support they can offer.
“If anyone is considering being an organ donor, we can really use their help,” Ms. Corcoran said.
For a living liver donation, individuals donate just a portion of their liver. The liver has the ability to regenerate itself in both the donor and recipient after transplantation.
The size of the portion and specific part of the liver that is donated depends on the needs of the recipient. “There are two lobes in the liver, one is 60% in size, and one is 40%. Will needs a 40% lobe from another person. The liver grows to fill in, and enlarges in about two months,” Ms. Corcoran said.
Because the donation of a portion of one’s liver involves a complicated medical procedure, a person may change his or her mind at any point along the way of the organ donation process, Ms. Corcoran said.
To qualify as a potential donor for Will, a donor must be between 18 and 55 years of age, and have blood type A or O. The donor must also be in good health and be of normal weight.
Will is a great candidate for a liver transplant because he has spent a lifetime of following medical protocols for his cystic fibrosis.
“Will is dedicated to good health and is diligent about taking his medications and using his vest to keep the secretions in his lungs from sticking to the lung lining,” Ms. Corcoran said.
Ms. Corcoran wants people to know that the surgical procedure to donate part of one’s liver is an involved process.
It requires an incision be made on the side of the chest. A surgical instrument called a retractor is usually needed to spread the ribs to gain access to the donor’s liver. Because the vessels surrounding the liver may not be sufficiently large for transplantation, a portion of a vessel in a leg may also be removed and used to connect the donated liver to the recipient.
The operation typically lasts five to eight hours, and the recovery in the hospital averages seven days.
Saving a life
The Corcorans are no strangers to organ transplants. A couple years ago, Ms. Corcoran saved someone’s life by donating one of her kidneys.
As the president of the board of directors of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Connecticut, and as a volunteer with the Cystic Fibrosis Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Ms. Corcoran learned of a 17-year-old boy with cystic fibrosis who needed a liver transplant, as her son Will now does.
She volunteered to donate part of her liver to the boy. However, after some medical procedures and testing, it turned out her liver was aberrant and couldn’t be divided in half. Therefore, she was unsuitable as a liver donor.
Determined to still help someone in need, Ms. Corcoran decided to donate one of her kidneys. It was removed and transplanted into the body of a 33-year-old woman whom Ms. Corcoran had never known or met before. The woman suffered from hereditary kidney disease and was in bad shape.
Following the surgery, the recipient met Ms. Corcoran and thanked her. “That experience was one of the most important in my life. Saving a life is a beautiful thing to do,” Ms. Corcoran said.
The Corcorans have arranged for Dr. Sukru Emre of Yale to perform Will’s transplant operation at Yale New Haven Transplant Center when and if a suitable liver becomes available.
For more information on liver transplants and helping the Corcorans, the public is asked to contact the Yale transplant care team at 866-925-3897.
“Please mention you are calling in regard to Will Corcoran,” Ms. Corcoran said.