by: Craig Lucie, WSB-TV
ATLANTA – Piedmont Atlanta just performed its first liver transplant with a live donor.
Channel 2’s Craig Lucie went to the hospital to meet the donor and his recipient and find out how this is a game changer for liver patients in Georgia.
“I’m extremely thankful, of course, because I was able to get a living donor transplant instead of waiting for a deceased donor transplant,” said Joe Isaksen.
Lucie met Joe Isaksen while he was still in his hospital bed, with his good friend Paul Hailstone standing at his side.
Joe now has part of Paul’s liver after a historic surgery at Piedmont Atlanta.
“Just having this program with my wife’s help and Paul’s help, we’ve got something that will help a lot of people,” said Isaksen.
Isaksen’s journey began when he tried to be a stem cell donor for his brother in 2012, but doctors noticed something was wrong.
“They said there’s is something wrong with your liver,” said Isaksen.
The problem turned out to be an autoimmune disease.
“It’s called primary sclerosing cholangitis. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks bile ducts within and then blocks them,” said Isaksen.
Isaksen started searching for a new liver from a live donor.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s throw it out on Facebook.’ Why not? It’s an easy way to get the word out because it’s hard to walk up and say, ‘Hey you’ve got a liver. Can you help me out?” said Isaksen.
His friend Paul Hailstone read the post and didn’t hesitate to donate part of his liver.
“I know what kind of person Joe is. He’s a great dad, great husband and great contributor in the community,” said Hailstone.
Their doctor, transplant surgeon Marwan Kazimi, says the two have set the bar high for Piedmont Atlanta’s first live-donor transplant surgery.
“I think it energizes the team here at the hospital and gives patients in Georgia an opportunity that they haven’t had for a long time,” said Kazimi.
Hailstone told Lucie the reward is well worth the risks.
“There are risks, but they are a weight in balance. It’s a calculated risk with a huge potential reward at the other end,” said Hailstone.
Paul Hailstone is already out of the hospital and Isaksen could get to go home Tuesday.
It will take three months for their livers to recover and grow back, but they will be able to do whatever activities they choose in about six weeks.
If you’d like to help with their medical costs, CLICK HERE to visit their GoFundMe page.