Thank you for the overwhelming response, support and love ❤️...
Jonathan received his liver transplant on June 29th 2020.
His incredible brother Daniel was his donor, giving 67% of his liver.
Jonathan is currently healing at home after spending much of 2021 in the hospital due to unfortunate complications. He remains strong, resilient and positive and will be healthy again soon!
Bold Strong Podcast // August 10 2021
Craig Nadeau interviews Jonathan about his Transplant Journey!
Real Talk Live // January 20, 2021
My brother and I talk about our transplant journey!
(our segment begins around 1h 05m)
Like millions out there, my immune system is compromised after having a liver transplant last year. I know a lot of people are hesitant to get the Covid vaccine, but think about us, who greatly benefit from the maximum number of people who do get vaccinated. 💚
Approximately 4,400 Canadians await a lifesaving organ transplant.
Each year hundreds of Canadians die waiting.
As an organ donor, you can save up to 8 lives
and enhance the lives of 75 others.
**March 1st 2021 Update*** Newlyweds! (20 months post transplant)
It has been a series of serendipitous events that has brought us here today, 20 months after my liver transplant. On February 24th we celebrated life and love with family and some of our closest friends. It was an absolutely perfect day and we owe so much to everyone involved who made it possible!
Jessica, I’m amazed by your caring and thoughtful ways. I love your self motivation, kindness and passion for what you love. I’m proud of everything you’ve accomplished and honoured to be by your side.
Of course, I have put you through a bit of stress. From my car accident shortly into our relationship to entering end stage liver disease, slowly fading away in front of your eyes, all the while having to quarantine from the world. It has been the two of us, jumping off a cliff, praying for a safe landing. We’ve been through it all, together. This is what strength, partnership, dedication and love are all about. To support each other no matter what difficulties arise. I know the past couple of years have been extremely difficult. Waiting patiently to see if I would make it, to recover, to be the same person you fell in love with. Not being allowed in the hospital during parts of our roller coaster ride. Saying our goodbyes on multiple occasions. Thinking of you, with visions of our future together got me through the tough times. It would have been very difficult to have gone through the last few years without you by my side….but we made it! We’re on the other side now and need to celebrate that!
❤️ xoxo Jonathan
photo credit: Angie Rodgiguez @juan.and.angie
**December 31st 2021 Update*** A New Year Awaits! (18 months post transplant)
2021 began with a horrible nightmare, but is ending with an incredible surprise! 2022 is looking good and we are extremely optimistic about the future.
Most of the year was spent recovering from my collapsed lung (on top of my transplant recovery, of course). It has nearly been a year with my biliary drain, but the appointment is booked for a January 31st removal! This will be a huge day - especially since I'll be getting married less than a month after!
In November, family members nominated Jess and I for a 'Luxury Wedding Contest' at a local boutique hotel, by sharing our love story and difficulties we’ve gone through together with my health battles and transplant. When the announcement day came, I checked the hotel's social media to find a comment that they had already let the winners know. We looked at each other and said “I guess it wasn’t meant to be”. Little did we know, until we arrived at a friend’s backyard ‘Happy Hour’ and the wedding coordinators showed up, that we had been selected from nearly 200 applicants! I froze and was in absolute shock! Jess burst into tears of joy. What a wild surprise! Our families and friends knew all week long! What a beginning to a new year it will be.
I wish all of my loved ones and supporters a wonderful and positive 2022.
Article from The Glencoe Club Magazine
Glencoe Life | September - November 2021
***August 3rd 2021 Update*** Finally visited my parents!
This past month I took my first flight post transplant! I finally visited my parents, who I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began. On Vancouver Island I had a few more ‘firsts’ since the surgery; kayaking and riding a bike. Definitely more movements and more energy to match. I still have discomfort on my right side as well as right lung pain, plus my drain leaked a little after sleeping on my side, but all things considered, I’m moving forward and feeling pretty good. I seem to always get an infection after each drain exchange (every 6-8 weeks). The most recent time, I was prescribed addition antibiotics. It will be incredible to get the drain out next January. Until then, I’ll continue to work more and try to avoid the wildfire smoke, which still affects me.
***June 29th 2021 Update*** My One Year Liverversary!!!
There are many things to celebrate today. First of all, it’s my one year liveversary! One year ago my incredible brother selflessly donated part of his liver to save my life. I’ve been through a few complications over the last 12 months, but am beginning to see glimpses of my future self, looking healthier and having much more energy!
Next up is the launch of Passport Puzzles! Head to www.passportpuzzles.com to check out our first collection of high quality 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles created using images from my travels! A portion of proceeds go towards organ donation awareness!
***May 31st Update*** Ups and downs - 11 months
The month of May seemed to go by quickly. Some days were better than others. On the good days, I would be more clear-headed, with less discomfort and more energy. Other days, I simply needed to listen to my body and take it easy.
Here are a few of the ups and downs:
I received my 2nd Covid vaccine!
Not much is known regarding antibody buildup in transplant patients. In France, a 3rd dose is already being given.
Another biliary drain exchange in the books. This time a slightly larger drain was put in place. All went well with this regular occurring procedure (every 6-8 weeks).
I will have the drain in for a total of one year. Big celebrations when it’s removed in January 2022! I was also sent home with an external bag for the bile and when I capped the drain the following day, bile went everywhere! Pants and sheets in the garbage. Oh well.
I had a great appointment with my liver specialist! He is extremely happy with my progress and numbers. I can now do lab tests monthly instead of weekly.
My most resent blood tests had some higher numbers than usual, most likely due to a minor infection caused by the drain exchange. I’ll continue with weekly tests until my numbers come down.
Small steps forward are being made. My hospitalization in January definitely set me back 6 months or so, but forward is the only way to go!
One year coming soon!
***April 29th Update*** 10 Months Post Transplant
Wow, it’s been 10 months since my liver transplant!
(and 3 months now with my bile duct drain)
It’s hard not to think of where my progress would be without the unfortunate fistula/lung collapsing setback earlier this year, but I continue to move forward and think about the amazing future ahead. I know that many of us are constantly dreaming of travelling again and April was an exciting month receiving my 1st vaccine with the 2nd scheduled for mid May!
While we await for the world to open up again, I’ve been fortunate enough to be apart of Passport Puzzles, an exciting new venture created by my future sister-in-law Pamela. I have been reliving travels through my images with a selection to be turned into stunning 1000 piece puzzles. A portion of proceeds will be going to help support organ donation awareness! Yes! Puzzles will be available in June.
With my picc line now out, I’ve been able to sleep on my left side again, which is a big step, doubling my sleeping position possibilities. In addition, I have the luxury to move freely and shower without being attached to a bag of antibiotics. Speaking of which, I’m down to rotating between 2 antibiotics (every 2 weeks), as opposed to 4 every day.
I have another drain exchange in May where they will most likely put in a slightly larger drain to continue to widen my bile duct. I’m told I’ll require it in for 6-12 months. I’ll definitely be celebrating the day when it gets removed. You never get used to having a drain sticking out of your side. Until then, Jess has taken over as my home care nurse changing the dressing weekly.
I try and make it out for a walk every day, and challenge myself as much as possible. I still feel stiff afterwards, showing what extensive bed rest will do to the body. I do continue to notice gradual progressive improvements daily. Weight is coming back again (as I continue to pack in the protein), feeling like I’m auditioning for a movie role - on, off, on again. Back up to the 170’s now (lbs), working back to the mid 180’s where I was in January.
One day at a time, remaining positive.
Keep on keeping on.
***April 5th Update*** 9 Months Post Transplant
It’s good to be home! There’s only so far one can heal in the hospital and being comfortable plays a huge part in recovery.
Being home these past few weeks with Jess, enjoying proper nutrition and the coziness of my own bed has been fantastic. To again appreciate the simple things, like feeling the sun on my face after barely looking out of a window for 7 weeks, definitely changes my state of mind. I also don’t mind not being woken up at 6am everyday by someone eager to take my blood samples!
I’ve noticed gradual improvements from week to week. After being practically bedridden, I’m slowly walking a little further, with more energy every week. My latest CT scan showed reduced liquid collections, although there’s still some discomfort taking a full breath. My lung is repairing and the antibiotics continue to do their thing. I continue to have my portable IV bag, but there’s a chance it could be removed this coming week dependant on the decision by the infectious disease doctors. It’s always a celebration every time a tube, IV, drain, stitch etc is removed - one step closer to freedom and not having to use cling wrap before showering!
My brother’s incision is now healed and he was recently given the go-ahead to swim and pretty much do anything he was doing before the transplant! He still has occasional discomfort, but I’m sure it will decrease with time.
Stay healthy xo
***March 12th Update*** Time to Heal at Home
After 7 weeks in the hospital, I’m going home today!!!! It was truly unexpected as I thought for sure another week or two, but the last doctor (who is excellent) made it her goal to focus on me during her 5 days here. A lot happened this week (got off IV nutrition, back on food, bile duct drain capped, cholangiogram, X-ray) so of course there are some weird feelings inside, mainly pressure on my right side. Plumbing isn’t quite working magically yet, but that will come with good sleeps at home.
I feel very similar to how I felt in August after spending July in the hospital after transplant. There’s a long way to go to recover and even get back to where I was in early January, but only so much can be accomplished in the hospital. I’ll be going home on many antibiotics, including an IV that will automatically run for 4 hours a day. Hopefully these will gradually take care of the remaining liquid collections that caused me such pain. Home care will come tomorrow and show us how to change a couple dressings.
I’m feeling pretty good about it. I did have a trial pass home to sleep earlier this week and despite a little anxiety, all went well. To shower at home and just lie in bed with silence, incredible! - the small things that we take for granted. Home is the best place to heal! I can’t wait to order a ton of snacks and groceries, catch up on sleep and spend time with Jess. Hopefully with this bile duct drain in, it keeps me out of the hospital.
It’s time to feel good. ❤️
***March 1st Update*** 8 Months Post Transplant - A Big Setback
I ended my last monthly update with: “I look forward to a quiet month of healing ahead.” Unfortunately, that was far from the case as February ended up being the worst month of my life.
During the two attempts to insert my bile duct drain, two different doctors each mistakenly caused a leak (or fistula). It went unnoticed and I was sent home to continue healing. This was the first time that I had left the hospital feeling worse than when I came in, but I was simply looking forward to a peaceful night in my own bed. No sleep was enjoyed that night as I struggled with pain before moving to the couch as being at a 90° angle was far less painful. As soon as Jess awoke, back to the hospital, which has been my second home these past few months.
Imaging tests revealed my whole right side was slowly filling up with bile and fluid, engulfing my lung and forcing it to collapse. My breathing was incredibly laboured and I was put on oxygen immediately. The following 2 weeks would be a nightmarish blur of procedures, tests, pain and discomfort. My situation was incredibly rare. Many doctors had never seen it before and I was dealing with specialists from liver, lung and respiratory units. I have vague memories of procedures at all hours of the day. One in particular, while not being able to breathe, getting harpooned with a giant needle followed by seeing the litre of black liquid that was just removed. The doctor proclaiming “that is what’s inside of you and needs to come out!”. Three chest tubes were put in to help drain the liquid, with a special concoction added to help break down the liquid inside. At this point I was absolutely broken. I had lost 25 lbs and felt like the past 6 months of rebuilding was erased. I had nothing left and was scared for my life as were the professionals around me. Luckily I have age on my side.
Last week, my liver specialist was the hepatologist on call in the weekly rotation here at the hospital. He’s a man of decisiveness, confidence and experience. I knew I was in good hands. He moved me up to the pulmonary unit and put me on lV nutrition (TPN). His idea, continue to drain, while drying out my insides, slowing down bile flow and healing the fistula.
So far so good, as I continue to slowly recover. I am down to one chest tube, (which isn’t draining much) and off oxygen. There’s still some liquid in my lower right side, but hopefully the cocktail of antibiotics I’m on takes care of that. I’m still a ways away from going home (maybe 2 weeks at best), but I’m in a better place mentally than a couple weeks ago. This month has been especially difficult knowing how good I was feeling before I came in over a month ago, but I’ll get back to that point.
***January 29th Update*** A Draining Experience
Another month has passed, making it 7 months post transplant. January has been a very difficult month, bringing me into the hospital twice with infections. The first time was a 7 day visit, coming in with a 40 degree temperature and the most recent stay is 9 days and counting as I write this from my bed in a shared room while connected to IV antibiotics and oxygen. The cause of these frequent visits is thought to be because of my narrow bile duct system, which has completely changed since my transplant as my old ones were diseased and removed, replaced with small sections from my brother.
After X-rays and an MRI revealed the duct issue, I went into a procedure on Tuesday where the doctors attempted to insert a drain from my right side through my bile duct and into the bowel, to help widen the duct and increase bile flow. It was a very long procedure, which I was very awake for (local anesthetic only), but it was unfortunately not successful. My bile duct was so narrow that the drain couldn’t go through, so it was simply left in the duct, attached to an exterior bag to drain bile and hopefully help widen the duct enough for a second attempt. The aftermath pain brought me right back to the first month after transplant. I felt like I had taken a huge step backwards and all that was draining into the exterior bag was blood.
2 days later, I was back for attempt number 2. It turned out that the drain had been dislodged from my duct, one of the causes for my pain and explained the blood. The second procedure was even longer. Again awake, I lay still watching the monitors displaying my insides with contrast being injected and flowing through my bile duct system, guiding the doctor though the darkness. The tension was high in the room filled with 6+ doctors and assistants. The patience from the main specialist was incredible and all of a sudden, celebration! The drain was in! The instant relief was overwhelming in the room as over the week I had built up quite a relationship with the team. I had one of the doctors snap a photo of me to celebrate the win, the operating table covered in my blood. They were able to also put a balloon in the duct to hopefully keep it wide and allow for better flow.
So now I wait for my numbers to normalize again and pain to improve. Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board in order to move forward. For the amount of time spent fiddling with my insides, it explains the discomfort I feel. I will get through this setback and come out stronger on the other side! It’s a weird feeling to be surrounded by people in these times. Surgery or a medical procedure is one of the only places where indoor gatherings are able to happen. Throughout this difficult year, I’m incredibly thankful for the caregivers and health restorers.
If all goes well, I should be home by early next week, ready to start a new month. A couple additional high notes from the last month have been doing the 'Real Talk' podcast with my brother, talking about our story and getting the word out on organ donation and I also testing negative fo my 6th Covid test.
I look forward to a quiet month of healing ahead.
***December 29th Update*** 6 Months Post Transplant!
It’s hard to believe that 6 months has now passed since getting my liver transplant! It’s a continuing journey of two steps forward and one step back, but my transformation has been incredible, from looking like the walking dead to seeing whites in my eyes, jaundice disappearing and weight and muscle sticking. I’m still affected by low energy levels and fogginess, but my specialist says it will take the better part of a year to feel like myself again.
I’m eternally grateful for all of the love and support that you’ve shown me this year. It has truly helped me mentally get through this very difficult chapter. As we enter a new year, I can see the sun shining bright ahead, bringing glimpses of my new healthy future, in addition to the light at the end of this pandemic.
I continue to recover, and look back on the long year that was 2020, a life-changing year for us all, in our own unique ways. I spent close to 3 months of it in the hospital, including a few days last week as I was fighting another infection. It was the day after a colonoscopy and I developed a high temperature, chills, joint pain and shortness of breath. Throughout the year, my symptoms have mirrored those of covid-19, but I know by now to remain calm and focus on getting through a specific moment. I did test negative and was treated with IV antibiotics, but being in the hospital these days is certainly a different experience than previous years. Knowing what’s happening within the walls of our healing centres and what the staff have been through this year, has been difficult to witness. We owe so much to our incredible health care workers. I’ve had 5 covid tests while in the hospital and each result has brought on huge relief, given my immunocompromised health.
While in the hospital last week, I also had another liver biopsy which showed no signs of rejection - A huge win! I have now started to wean off the prednisone steroids and hopefully my liver numbers will continue to normalize.
I wish everyone a healthy, safe and happy 2021 where we rediscover the small things in life and are able to spend more time together with loved ones.
Love, Positivity, Peace and Health,
***November 29th Update*** Turning a Corner
It was exactly one year ago today that I decided to share my health issues on Facebook. Some knew what I had been going through, but maybe not to the extent that my body was shutting down. I was hesitant, but the immediate support and love I received was incredible. A lot of times we feel alone, but we truly need to reach out for support when needed, as hard as it can be to share personal journeys. The messages that I have received and continue to get from around the world have kept me focused and positive through this insane year.
Now 5 months post transplant I truly feel like I am turning a corner and feeling human again, stronger, both mentally and physically.
After spending much of October in the hospital with infections and minor rejection in my new liver, November has been a noticeable game changer bringing me much more energy, brain clarity and weight gain. I’m actually about 180lbs now, which is 25lbs more than in August! I continue my high protein diet (100-120g/day), but the pounds and muscle are actually sticking now as opposed to my body not being able to keep it on before the transplant.
Brain function and clarity is something that most wouldn’t associate with liver disease, but along with the itchiness and jaundice (both of which have disappeared) were some of the worst symptoms associated with my disease. Having had occasional brain fog for so long, it has been a drastic change to be able to concentrate and focus again. I’m excited what the months ahead will bring!
My Liver Function Numbers did come down after getting out of the hospital and being prescribed a couple of different antibiotics, bile acids and a low dose of Prednisone. More recently, the numbers have fluctuated a little and as a result my specialist has increased the Prednisone (steroid).
My brother has been on a similar recovery timeline, as we have both had our complications. Healing is taking time, but we’re getting there, month-by-month. Unfortunately Daniel’s vertical incision has not totally closed up due to a pesky reoccurring bud that keeps forming. He has had to have a temporary vacuum device installed that will hopefully help close the wound. We both started driving again in November (huge deal!) and he has been out cycling and jogging lightly. I try and get out for a walk every day and do a short workout, dictated by how my body feels. Certain days it is evident that I went through a recent major surgery, while others I get glimpses of my youthful self. No time like your 40’s to enjoy aging in reverse!
Laughing every day has been extremely important, whether from a comedy show, short clip, telling jokes or old stories. Reliving past travels through my photos has really helped get through days. In these times it can be tough to stay positive, but we are so lucky to live where we do and our situations can always be worse. Everyone in the world is going through this pandemic, many in developing overpopulated areas. Continuing to communicate with others and having empathy will get us through the tough days. Much love to all.
***October 18th Update*** Back in the hospital.
At the end of September, I went to Edmonton to have a cholangiogram which checks to see how bile is flowing through the ducts. All went well and the following day I had my drains removed (which were put in during my second surgery - 10 days post transplant). As we drove back to Calgary, pain began to appear and gradually got worse until we arrived home where I had to lie down. At this point the pain was excruciating. I would later find out it was a bile leak.
Upon being admitted to the hospital, I got on antibiotics, and had a HIDA scan (which takes an image every minute for an hour of contrast going through the bile ducts to determine if there are any leaks). A small leak was found, but on the follow-up HIDA scan, done a week later, the leak appeared to have healed itself. Unfortunately, my liver function numbers have been elevated since shortly after my transplant (puzzling the doctors) so I had an MRI followed by a liver biopsy.
The MRI revealed inflammation in my bile duct and the biopsy showed a small amount of rejection. A few days later my C-Reactive Protein normalized, which shows the inflammation has gone down (I must have had an infection). The rejection will be treated with a steroid (Prednisone) and I'll hopefully see my liver numbers decreasing soon. I will start this today or tomorrow. An ultrasound has also been scheduled for tomorrow.
This is all part of the process and complications are not abnormal. The first year after a big surgery, especially a liver transplant, is constant balancing of medications and immunosuppressants. Hopefully one day this period will be a distant memory, but for now I continue to take things one day at time and one 6am blood test at a time. What a way to wake up!
***September 26th Update*** Almost 3 Months!
Amazingly, It’s already coming up to 3 months since my liver transplant! That quarter year has been the longest and easily most difficult time in my life. A month was spent in the hospital, a month staying close by in Edmonton and most recently, a month back home in Calgary.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I instantly notice a difference in my face - no more jaundice (yellow skin), and I’m showing whites in my eyes for the first time in years. I thought that physically I would feel better than I do, but it will take time and the experts say to expect recovery to last through the first year, with many ups and downs.
I was still greatly affected by the smoke (from US wildfires) last week that blanketed the city. Shortness of breath, brain fog and low energy brought me right back to how I was feeling prior to the transplant. Luckily that only lasted a short time and we’re back to fresh air again.
My liver enzyme numbers are elevated at the moment and rising, which is puzzling the doctors. It may be a little bit of rejection or infection so I’m having a liver biopsy next week. Hopefully they can figure out the issue soon. Ultrasounds last week didn’t reveal much, except for some ascites (some pockets of liquid in my stomach).
Other big news for next week is the removal of my 2 drains which currently hang from just below the right side of my chest. These run through my bile ducts and were inserted after my second surgery (10 days after the initial transplant). I can’t wait to have these things out! Especially since one has dislodged from the ducts and now goes straight into my bowel.
Patience in key. As much as I want to start my new normal, it will take time to get there. I lived with my liver disease (PSC) for over a quarter of my life and my body adapted to it. Now my body needs to embrace the drastic wonderful new changes and adapt again.
I did receive a fantastic compliment the other day from an ultrasound technician. She said “you have a beautiful liver!” I told her I’d pass it along to my brother to whom I owe my new life.
My brother is doing alright. It wasn’t a smooth transition from Edmonton to Montreal and unfortunately he had a few infections in his incision and it’s taking a long time to heal. He has been experiencing many of the same discomforts as me and with both of us having complications, we must remain patient, knowing that it won’t always be like this.
A huge thank you to all who have been supportive this year. We did it! The hard part is over - on to the continued recovery! 💚
A Day in the Life of a Transplant Recovery
August 18th, 2020
Yesterday I shot a quick ‘Day in the Life of a Transplant Recovery’ for those interested in what life is like these days.
I’m now 7 weeks post liver transplant and my focus is on recovery and rebuilding. I’ve come to learn that no two transplant recoveries will be alike, but most will be filled with difficulties, many unknowns and challenges, both mentally and physically. Taking things slowly, day by day is key, while not expecting huge daily results. I have been noticing progress weekly and it’s incredible to see the jaundice gone from my eyes and skin. It will certainly be a long road ahead. I’m 20 lbs less than I was going into surgery, although I’m sure my old enormous liver accounted for a lot of that dead weight!
***July 18th Update*** Road to Recovery!
The last 3 weeks has been incredibly difficult. I was concentrating so much on just getting here and not even focusing on the recovery process. The focus has now shifted and the marathon has begun.
My surgery went well and after a couple days in ICU, I was transferred to the transplant unit. The surgeon took a photo of my old liver and said it was one of the largest he’d ever seen, making the incision larger. My pain was horrific. I could barely get out of bed due to the excruciating sharp and continued pain in my side. It turned out I needed to go back into surgery after 12 days for a ‘wash out’ and get a few external bags connected to drain liquid.
The first couple weeks in the hospital are a bit hazy, filled with awful drug-induced nightmares and discomfort, but things shifted after I awoke from the second surgery. I quickly decreased pain killers to an occasional Tylenol and have been making use of physio therapy to regain strength. My poor bowels have seen both sides of the coin; not enough after the first surgery to way too active after the second, but with the amount of anti rejection pills and meds, things will hopefully sort themselves out.
The care is incredible, nurses are wonderful, surgeons and doctors fine tuning meds everyday, constantly visiting and adjusting for what is working or not.
Sleeping has been awful (as expected), but trying to make the best of food options, treats and new found cravings!
If all goes well, I could be released on Monday to stay in Edmonton for a few weeks while coming into the hospital for blood tests.❤️ Fingers are crossed. It comes down to how my bile flow is doing and if I am released with a temporary external bag or not.
My current pain and discomfort is manageable. When you think about the process and what they have to cut through, it’s no surprise the dull aches and sharp pains will continue for a while.
Liver Enzymes have come down a lot, with jaundice nearly disappearing! Jess has been my rock at my side as much as possible, and I couldn’t imagine going through this without her. ❤️
My amazing hero of a brother and his incredible wife are now back home in Montreal and adjusting to his old surroundings with new discomforts. Going from 22 degree dry Edmonton weather to a humid 33 will also take time to adjust.
As usual we’re taking things one day at a time. Small steps with small victories.
Thank you so much for the continued kind words and encouragement! 💚.
***June 22nd Update*** The Best Birthday Gift ever!
Today is my 40th birthday and there’s only one gift that would make my day.... a new liver.
Shortly after turning 30 and being in pain for a few years already, I was diagnosed with a rare liver disease (PSC). While on the long road to being diagnosed, I had my gallbladder removed due to massive attacks and was told this would cure my pain. I was also told I had cancer (not true) and that I may not live to be 40. I always looked at 40 as a life goal and it inspired me to travel as much as possible in my 30s. Despite being in much pain and discomfort for most of the trips, life continued to get better and I became closer with family, friends and met the love of my life. I also found an amazing liver specialist who told me that I would probably need a new liver by 40. He definitely got that one right!
Now here I am about to receive the best birthday gift ever! Yes friends, after originally having a date of March 28th and then getting put on hold because of Covid-19, this is finally happening! ***June 29th is the date!!!!*** My brother, who was told many times over the past few difficult months that it couldn’t be him anymore because he was out-of-province and too risky to travel has now been given the green light to give me the gift of life.
After going through this crazy roller coaster of push-backs, cancellations, trial runs and changing donors multiple times, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m incredibly excited, but after everything we’ve been through, I’ll believe it when I’m getting wheeled into the operating room and I’ll have the biggest smile on my face!
Time has been running out for me and my energy levels have been very low lately, with horrific brain fog, spending a lot of the day back and forth from bed.
One more week to go! Stay strong, and positive everyone! My 40s will be a new chapter in my life, regaining my health and aging in reverse!
Thank you so much for the continued support and love. ❤️
***May 2nd Update*** Getting Closer
As expected, my health continues to decline. April was a tough month with everything going on, but it did seem to go by quickly, living with our new routine. I continue to get blood tests done bi-weekly, with my latest results now putting me tied with the next in line for a cadaver liver. This means I could get the call to go to Edmonton at anytime for the transplant surgery. My specialist is optimistic that May is the month. Given the living donor program is still on hold, this is my best bet. Time to pack our bags and continue staying patient and positive. One day at a time.... we're getting closer.
***March 29th Update*** A Few Options
Just a few weeks ago we were looking at March 30th for my surgery date… and then Covid-19 hit. My wonderful original donor has now been moved to my backup because he lives out of province. Meanwhile, an incredible friend who lives locally has found out that he's also a perfect match and has moved to the top spot. Unfortunately, the living donor program is on hold in Alberta currently, but when it starts back up, we'll be one of the first in line. Honestly, with hospitals filling up, and numbers continuing to rise, I don’t think they’ll be opening this back up for months.
The other option, which could be my best bet given the situation, is getting a cadaver liver (deceased donor). I’ve been told that for my blood type, I'm in the top 4 on the waitlist, with each of us in a different weight class, thus the size of the diseased donor will determine the recipient. My doctor is confident this will happen for me within the next 2 months, but I could get a call at anytime! The pro here is that I would receive the whole organ with all the bells and whistles, hopefully leading to less of a recovery time. This surgery also wouldn’t involve an additional intrusive surgery for a live donor as well as require a whole second medical team and operating room. The con is that less would be known about the donor’s medical history.
I'm at home now, with my fiancée, only leaving for occasional blood tests or appointments. Energy levels are low, but spirits are high. I’m trying my best to stay out of the hospital, but my doctor thinks it’s inevitable that I’ll be back in soon. It’s all out of my hands right now and I have faith the best option will come my way. To be honest, it’s all in your (hopefully clean) hands - The more physical distancing, the faster we get back to normality, I get my surgery and my life gets a whole lot better!
Stay positive ❤️
***March 22nd Update*** Entering the Unknown
March started with the incredible news that I had a live donor and a tentative date was set for late Spring. Soon after, I was back in the hospital getting IV antibiotics with very elevated liver numbers. This is when Covid-19 was first spreading throughout North America, but panic hadn’t hit yet. Still, the hospital was the last place I wanted to be. All of a sudden the best news came in; the transplant team contacted my donor with a new possible date of March 30th! I couldn’t believe it - overwhelmed with emotion, this was actually going to happen!
And then one of the the worst case scenarios happened. Covid-19 spread and everything was cancelled or put on hold. Right now so much is up in the air with the most dire transplants being looked at on a case to case basis. I am optimistic that it will happen. My feelings remain that sooner over later is still best, and I of course have full trust in the experts. I fear if we wait too long, my health is just going to decrease, while hospitals fill up. Also what happens if I need more IV antibiotics? As much as my immune system is compromised now, after the transplant it will be much weaker and I’ll be on immunosuppressants for life. So many questions, but in reality, I just need to simply remain calm, stay home and take it one day at a time - so really business as usual for me. Of course a lot of my usual, ever-changing symptoms are similar to those listed for Covid-19, but I’ve been dealing with strange unknowns in my body for so long now, I just need to stay out of my head.
Remain positive everyone. Take these times seriously and stay home to help people with compromised immune systems like me.
Love to all for your support! We will get through this together. ❤️
***March 5th Update*** There's a Match!
Incredible news!… Drum Roll….. I have a match! The transplant will most likely take place in May, but this could change depending on how my health goes. The transplant clinic is also continuing to do the workup for one or two other potential donors, as a backup, just in case something needs to be done sooner than later.
An enormous thank you to everyone who shared my story, sent me inspirational messages and supported the fundraiser, especially the 200 amazing people who called the clinic to be potential donors and those beautiful individuals who are completing or have been doing the extensive testing. Wow! The support absolutely blew me away and created such hope. Now I just need to stay as healthy as possible and prepare for the next chapter.
Help me find a liver
Eventually, this will be a travel blog, but in the meantime there is something going on in my life that is much more important than travel.
My health is threatened by end stage liver disease, and I am in need of a live donor soon. I am searching for a special selfless healthy individual, who is blood type O and 5'8" or taller, healthy and is able to be in Edmonton for a month + to share a piece of their liver. Incredibly, the liver is the only organ to fully regenerate and this happens in around one month!
***February 12th Update! The roller coaster continues
The road to a transplant is never a direct one. While in the hospital recently receiving IV antibiotics due to infection, I had an MRI and a CT scan. The results showed enlarged lymph nodes around my lungs. I soon met with a pulmonary specialist who ordered an immediate lung biopsy. I was told it could be any number of things; from cancer or lymphoma, which would drastically alter my dreams for a transplant, to something that could disappear on its own. I waited patiently for a week and found out yesterday that there is no cancer and that it’s most likely an early stage of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease (possibly caused by one of the drugs I’m taking), that could be treated with the immunosuppressants (anti-rejection drugs) that I have to take post transplant surgery. A huge sigh of relief with a few tears of joy!!!
Now back to focusing on the transplant! I have faith that we are getting close to my match. There are at least 4 incredible people working their way through testing right now and I hope to know more by the end of February. Not only do we need blood type, size and health match, but a large bile duct is also required. Unfortunately a few have been turned away after the final tests because of not fitting this final requisite. It’s truly the toughest part right now, the waiting, especially for those closest to me. We will get through this together!
Also an enormous thank you to those who have supported and shared my Go Fund Me Fundraiser. This has certainly helped to alleviate some of the future stress involved with the recovery process, both for myself and my (soon to be locked in) amazing donor. The two of us will need to rent accommodation close to the hospital in Edmonton soon after the surgery, with typical recovery ranging from 6-8 weeks for the donor and anywhere from 4-6+ months for me.
***January 27th Update! Sooo many calls ❤️
The live donor clinic received an abundance of calls last week!!!! So many, that they are confident enough that my donor is among them, that they've started a wait list in case the first group doesn't pan out. This is incredible news everyone! It has been mind-blowing to see the response for my story and I hope others in need of a donor can also benefit from my exposure. Now is the time to be patient and stay positive. The testing to qualify to be a donor is extensive and time-consuming. I will keep everyone updated.
While we wait, incredible friends have created a Go Fund Me Fundraiser for myself and my donor during the recovery period. I want to thank everyone for their continued support! 🙏
I got a call from the living donation people and you have probably already heard but enough people have stepped up that they don’t even need me right now, but have me on a list in case no one pans out. So I’m very hopeful that you find a donor that is a match for you. In the meantime, I’m going to pay it forward and have put my name on the anonymous donor list and they are sending me the requisition to get me on their list.”
In need of a liver transplant
a brief history of my journey with PSC
In 2008, I first began having symptoms of a digestive disorder. It began with trouble digesting certain foods, experiencing horrible heartburn and acid reflux. This was followed by massive gallbladder attacks and painful reactions after consuming any alcohol. I was continuously being mis-diagnosed (being told everything from “drink more milk” to “you have cancer”) and saw around a dozen doctors before finally having an ultrasound showing that my gallbladder was filled with stones.
In 2010, I had my gallbladder removed, being told and expecting that this would be the end of my problems. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning as symptoms continued. I was then diagnosed with PSC - Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare liver disease which is scarring of the liver and narrowing of the bile ducts. There is no known cause and the only cure is transplant. There are more people in Alberta with digestive disorders than anywhere else in Canada.
At the time I was first diagnosed, I was working in the hospitality industry and had experienced discomfort from the kitchen cooking smoke and the dishwasher chemicals, but never connected it until much later. I remember a time where I was unable to eat solid food, yet I was serving big steaks and bottles of wine to hungry guests. I got by on smoothies and juices for a period as it was all I could digest. Soon after, I completely changed my diet, seeking professional assistance from a dietitian and rebuilding my gut. I also completely cut out alcohol and caffeine as my body’s filter wasn’t doing it’s job and I couldn’t process toxins.
Eventually, working in restaurants full-time was taking its toll on my body and I needed to find other work that I could manage with my disease. Photography had always been a passion and that’s when I started my photography company and totally shifted focus. I also prioritized my other passion of travel into life as much as possible, knowing that there could come a time where my health might worsen and I couldn’t travel anymore. So far I have made it to 78 countries.
The disease remained somewhat manageable, but the last 2 years have been especially difficult as my liver has become more scarred and fragile. The forest fire smoke experienced in 2017 and 2018 forced me to spend much of the summer months indoors, close to an air purifier and losing out on much work. I had to even stop using my oven due to fumes affecting my well-being and when I clean the house, I wear a heavy-duty mask. I’m especially sensitive to any foreign chemicals/smoke/car emissions/cleaners etc.
Over these last 2 years, I have spent approximately 4 months (a couple weeks at a time) in the hospital due to infections, having to take IV liquid antibiotics to help liver enzyme numbers get back to my base. During an infections symptoms can include; not being able to concentrate, brain fog, low energy, abdominal pain, jaundice, horrible itchiness and general bodily discomfort.
Most recently, I was in the hospital for almost the full month of August 2019 after a routine endoscope caused pancreatitis and then ascites. My health was so poor that doctors thought that I was going to have to go straight into a transplant procedure, but I recovered.
My liver disease has gradually gotten worse and has progressed to end stage cirrhosis with persistent weakness leaving me mostly housebound and finding it more and more difficult to work.
In 2019, I was put on the liver transplant list.
As far as transplants go, there are two options; a live donor (where half of the liver is taken from a living donor and given to me - the liver will actually regenerate within approximately one month) or a cadaver liver (the whole liver is taken from a deceased donor). A live donor can be scheduled, but a cadaver liver goes to the most in need.
Given my current health, a live donor is the best option. This way we can schedule the operation sooner than later and plan for what’s needed. Otherwise I have to wait until my health is the worst in the region (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Northern BC) before I get to the top of the list. This will take time as my health declines, plus adding much more recovery time and stress on the body.
Here is my post on Social media (Over 6000 shares🙏)
***Urgent Liver Donor Needed***
YOU CAN HELP SAVE MY LIFE.
I continue to search for the perfect live donor for my liver transplant. I thought that I had the ultimate donor (an incredible selfless family friend), but unfortunately during his final tests, the doctors found that he has a rare bile duct system that isn’t a match with mine. This is why I need multiple wonderful individuals doing the testing at once.
You need to be blood type O and 5'8"tall and be fully committed to the process. This involves a series of tests done locally to make sure you’re healthy, followed by a trip to Edmonton to meet with specialists and finally the actual operation would take place at the Edmonton hospital, where you would be required to spend approximately one month. Yes this is a lot to ask, I know, but all I can do is keep asking, and for you to keep sharing, as I know my donor is out there.
With a bit of luck, timing and sacrifice from the right person, I could be gifted a new lease on life and be healthy again by as soon as the summer. I can’t even imagine.
Please take the time and consider this. I know you’re thinking someone else will do it, but if we all think like this, no one will help.
At this point, time is very critical as my health continues to decline.
The first step: call the liver donor clinic in Edmonton at +1-780-407-8698 or +1-866-253-6833 and mention that you’d like to be a potential liver donor for Jonathan Ferguson. They will then send you a requisition to find out your blood type.
The Nature of Things: VITAL BONDS
Take a fascinating journey inside the evolving science of transplants, where breakthrough discoveries are tackling the organ shortage and transforming the future of medicine.
We’ve all heard about the crisis in organ donation. Even in the wealthiest countries, we lose many patients who could be saved with transplants. In Canada, one in four on the lung waitlist die waiting. Over 4,500 Canadians are waiting for kidneys – every day, four of them die.
The process to becoming a live donor
- After calling the live donor clinic, you will receive a requisition to check your blood type, height, weight and blood pressure. I require any blood type O and ideally my donor should be around my size (I'm 6', 175 lbs) as the taller the donor, the larger the organs and bigger piece of liver that can be transplanted - amazingly the liver regenerates in both parties in about a month!
- The next step is an informative Q & A with the transplant clinic experts who can answers and questions you may have.
- More tests - MRI, ECG, Ultrasound etc. They want to know if everything is working as it should. The bonus is, you get to find out how healthy you are :)
- If all looks good, the final step is in Edmonton at the incredible facilities at the U of A hospital. This is a 2 day visit, meeting with a surgeon, specialist, a dietician and social worker as well as a few more tests.
- Schedule the transplant! Most likely for Spring 2020. They require 2 operating rooms side-by-side.
- Recovery (see video below for more info)