Lorin Morse spent last Christmas sick and not knowing if he was going to live or die from his liver disease. This year, Morse is grateful for his newfound health and new liver — which was a gift from an unknown donor.
Morse’s transplant last February marked Intermountain Healthcare’s 1,000th liver transplant since the Transplant Program started in 1986.
“The 1000th liver transplant provides the opportunity to celebrate each and every gift of life that’s made possible by the generosity of our donors and their families,” says Diane Alonso, MD, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s abdominal transplant program, which is based at Intermountain Medical Center In Murray. “This significant milestone also provides us the opportunity to remind ourselves as a program how far we’ve come as transplant providers.”
The Intermountain Transplant Program began in 1983 at LDS Hospital, starting with kidney transplants. The program performed its first liver transplant in 1986. Since that time, Intermountain Healthcare’s Transplant Program has been dedicated to the care of patients with end-stage organ failure and providing them access to life-saving transplants. Last year, Intermountain Medical Center performed 52 liver transplants — a record high for the program.
In 2016, Morse began having issues walking and thinking. “I had brain fog and didn’t know who I was,” he said. After a series of tests, doctors diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The disease involves inflammation and liver cell damage, along with fat in the liver. Certain health conditions, like obesity, genetics, type 2 diabetes, and diet make you more susceptible to developing it.
Morse’s health began to deteriorate and he was put on the transplant list. In February 2018, severe nausea and pain put him in the hospital, and two days later he had a new lease on life when he received his new liver.
“It’s truly a miracle I’m even alive,” he said.
“There are few things more rewarding than to match a perfect organ to its perfect recipient,” said Manuel Rodriguez-Davalos, MD, medical director of Intermountain Healthcare’s Living Donor Liver Transplantation Program and a transplant surgeon. “It’s a true privilege to be the bridge between the wonderful gift of donation and the ability to help those who are so sick.”
“I got my life back,” says Morse. “Being the 1,000th patient is my turn to be king of the hill — but the real heroes are my transplant team and donor.”
“The community is who we should thank for providing us our 1,000th opportunity to save a life this year,” says Richard Gilroy, MD, medical director of the Hepatology and Liver Transplantation Program at Intermountain Medical Center. “Transplant doesn’t exist without the gifts they selflessly provide others.”
In the last two years, Morse has lost 105 pounds and is back riding his bike 80 to 120 miles a week — when the weather is good.
This Christmas, Morse says he plans to celebrate with a heart that’s filled with gratitude and a new liver that’s given him a new life.
Morse and Intermountain Healthcare encourages everyone to register as an organ donor. Register at YesUtah.org.