‘2 people had to die for me to still be here’: Transplant recipient becomes transplant surgeon

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WATCH ABOVE: One donor can save eight lives, but in this case, two donors will save a lot more than that, because of who one of their recipients grew up to be. Su-Ling Goh reports – Apr 18, 2016

EDMONTON – Each organ and tissue donor can save eight lives. But in this case, two donors saved many more than that, because one of their recipients is now a transplant surgeon.

Dr. Scott Livingstone had end-stage liver disease at age 14 because of a rare genetic condition. An urgent liver transplant at the University of Alberta Hospital saved his life, but later failed. Then a second donor came through with another liver for the teen.

“I think about that a lot. Two people had to die for me to still be here,” said Livingstone, now 36 and a father of two.

“So that puts a big weight of responsibility to make sure I actually do something with the extra time that I’ve been given.”

After medical school, a surgery residency and time in research, Livingstone has returned to where his transplant journey started. He’s doing a fellowship in transplantation at the University of Alberta Hospital, working alongside some of the same surgeons who saved him more than 20 years ago.

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“I remember that Scott was very ill when he came to see us,” said Dr. Norman Kneteman, now clinical section chief of transplant services for Alberta Health Services.

Kneteman describes Livingstone as a “solid surgeon.”

“(Livingstone is) a pleasure to work with in the OR, he’s very good with his hands, and he’s committed to his patients,” said Kneteman.

“There’s no question that someone like (Livingstone) has a huge understanding that most of us can never have.”

One of Livingstone’s patients, Clinton Kilgour, feels having a surgeon who’s been through it is invaluable.

“(He) knows exactly what you’re dealing with, and knows where your highs and lows are going to be,” said Kilgour, who received his new liver a few days ago.

Livingstone doesn’t share his story with all of his patients – just the ones who seem scared, or parents of children who need transplants. He knows telling them about his own transplants helps to calm them down. It also helps them see what a difference a donor can make.

“You put this liver in (the patient) and it revascularizes. It gets all pink, it starts working almost immediately,” said Livingstone. “And people go from being as incredibly sick as they are, to bouncing back. The transformation is incredible.”

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“I can’t think of anything else I would rather do. I absolutely love doing surgery. It’s very rewarding.”

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