Life and death quest for liver
Published 9:48 pm Wednesday, January 27, 2016
A Suffolk man is appealing to the public for help finding a new liver and covering bills associated with the donation process.
J. Trenton Bishop has been fighting Hepatitis C since 2012, when the virus he became infected with in 1980 became active and began attacking his liver.
“It’s overwhelming how the community has come out for this,” Bishop said of the response on his fundraising page. “It would be wonderful to have two to three candidates. If I had three potential people that would do it, they would test them all.”
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Bishop, who owns Infinity Rehab and an alpaca farm with his wife, said he caught the virus while working as a Navy corpsman at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center. He got stuck with a dirty needle while doing chest compressions on an admiral who had gone into cardiac arrest.
For 32 years, the virus lay dormant. Periodic tests showed his liver was functioning normally. But then, in 2012, things started to go wrong.
“I started having other symptoms that initially would never be connected with secondary issues with the liver,” Bishop said. “The first thing that happened was I was having a lot of gastric problems.”
An ultrasound done to diagnose the problem showed that about 80 percent of his liver was dead. His new hepatologist told him he was sicker than he looked.
In December 2014, his daughter woke up to find him on the floor, suffering from stroke-like symptoms caused by damage to the brain as a result of the disease.
Bishop and his doctor had a choice: have a transplant and then start medication, or start medication and then seek a transplant if it didn’t work.
They chose medication first. But not only did the medication not work, Bishop’s viral load more than doubled in the time he was taking the medication.
“Because the viral load went up, my symptoms have gotten worse and worse,” Bishop said.
Blood is backing up throughout his body, because it can’t get to the damaged portions of his liver, which is causing a new host of symptoms.
“I get an abdominal ultrasound quite frequently,” Bishop said. “What they’re worried about is an aneurysm.”
To add insult to injury, the medication caused false test results that caused his prioritization score to fall, so he has been taken off the list to receive a liver from a deceased donor.
That makes a living donor his only option. In a donation from a living donor, only a portion of the liver is removed, and the entire liver of the recipient is replaced. In the ensuing months, both portions regrow to normal size.
Bishop is on the hunt for a willing donor who is between the ages of 18 and 50, has O+ or O- blood type, and is in good health.
Bishop’s niece has the same blood type as he and meets all the criteria, so she is currently going through other tests to see if she is a tissue match. Other family members are not eligible for various reasons.
But he wants to have other candidates lined up in case his niece turns out not to be a match.
He’s also raising money to help make the eventual donor whole, including any costs his insurance might not cover, missed time from work and so on.
“I don’t want them financially to have any concern about the whole process,” Bishop said.
Bishop says his doctor believes he would be successful with a new liver.
“Other than this thing with my liver, I’m healthy as an ox,” Bishop said. “I don’t have any heart disease. I’ve never smoked. I drank very little. I don’t have diabetes.”
To donate money or send Bishop a private message about willingness to donate a liver, visit www.gofundme.com/48jzjrgs. Sending a message without a donation can be accomplished by going through the steps to donate, entering an amount of $0 and writing a comment after clicking “Hide name and comment from everyone but the organizer.”