Texas family encouraging ‘living organ donation’ after undergoing life-saving surgery

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FRUITVALE, Texas (KETK) A Fruitvale family has a special reason to give thanks this month, including a donation that someone couldn’t live without.

Cristy and Joel Elliot have been married for nearly 20 years, leading them to sense when something is wrong with each other.

“Nineteeeeennn…Why you looking at me,” Joel joked.

“Ok, so this summer, I was saying we have been dating for 20 years and we’ve been married for 18,” said Cristy.

This year, the couple faced something they never expected.

“I couldn’t quit losing weight, so we went to the doctor and the doctor told me that after testing and everything, said that I had Cirrhosis,” said Joel.

A few years earlier, Joel was diagnosed with fatty liver, which eventually led to Cirrhosis, leading both to be concerned.

“You don’t want people to assume the worst that maybe there’s alcoholism, that’s what is usually associated with Cirrhosis and unfortunately, that’s not the case in every situation,” said Christy.

A person with Cirrhosis is 40 times more likely to develop liver cancer than someone without.

“There’s a normal stage, which hopefully everybody has, a normal liver, there’s fatty liver, there’s Cirrhosis, and there’s cancer,” said Cristy. “And when Dr. Rohemi was explaining this to us, we knew we were at the Cirrhosis stage, and I thought what’s the next stage, what’s going to happen next and he said, well, it’s cancer, cancer’s next. And I said why are we waiting for cancer?”

That’s when the Elliot’s knew they had to do something.

“It’s very scary, because you just think, you’ve created this whole world with, you know, the love of your life and now all of the sudden, it very easily could be taken away,” said Cristy.

Knowing her family was in trouble, Cristy’s mother told her about living organ donations.

“We take part of their liver, either the right or the left side of their liver and the remaining part regenerates. And that small part that you give in the other person who is in need for the transplant also regenerates, so it becomes like a win-win kind of situation for both parties,” said Dr. Saleh Elwir, Transplant Hepatologist at Baylor Scott and White.

With a successful possibility, Cristy made the transplant and now it’s been four months since she was able to give her husband 60 percent of her liver.

“I feel actually better than I did for probably a couple of years prior to even knowing that I had the liver problem,” said Cristy.

While Joel is thankful for his wife’s sacrifice, Cristy is focusing her gratefulness on doctors, nurses, and surgeons who made it all possible.

“It’s incredibly impressive, their hard work is truly giving lives back to us and their training and their ability to not be afraid to try something new has saved my husband’s life,” said Cristy. “We’re almost so grateful, it’s almost disgusting.”

The Elliot family had their surgery at Baylor Scott and White Hospital in Dallas. They tell us the hospital holds questions and answer sessions for anyone considering being a living donor.



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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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