Nov 24, 2015
In early 2002, Ogden, Utah resident, Michael Correll was a single father working as an electrician and raising his 6-year-old son Gage. Correll graduated from Weber State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in land use planning and geography in 1994. In the fall of 2002 Correll made the decision to become a living organ donor and donate part of his liver to his mother who had been on the transplant waiting list since 2001.
“It was an amazing experience spiritually and mentally. I would tell a thousand people to do it, it was phenomenal to think that I was able to extend my mom’s life,” Correll said.
Although, Correll’s mother Vicki had been diagnosed with liver disease and put on the transplant waiting list, her doctors told her she might be waiting for a while due to a lack of available livers for transplant.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing website, an average 22 people per day die because a lifesaving transplant did not become available in time. More than 123,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant in the United States, and every ten minutes another person is added to the waiting list.
UNOS reported that 29,532 transplants were performed in 2014. It was the first time more than 29,000 transplants were performed in a single year. An average of 81 transplants take place every day in the United States.
Correll knew that without a liver transplant, his mother wouldn’t live much longer. When he found out he could donate part of his liver to his mother, he immediately knew he wanted to help her. “A cousin of mine said let me see if I can give her a portion of my liver, and I said hold the phone, it’s my mom, let me try first. The idea hadn’t even crossed my mind yet,” Correll said.
The transplant took place in Omaha, Nebraska in October, 2002. Before the transplant team could perform the transplant they needed to ensure that Correll’s blood and tissue were compatible with his mother’s blood and tissue, that he was healthy enough to withstand major surgery and recover completely, and that his liver was healthy. Once it was established that Correll met the criteria the transplant team went forward with the surgery.
“We had the transplant. It was a total success. My liver was in my mom and functioning. After about a few days they wheeled me down to her room and put our beds next to each other. We were able to talk and high-five each other that we had done it. We couldn’t believe it, this was a major deal. She was so happy, because she was sick, and she was to the point where she just didn’t want to be sick anymore.”
Correll was back on his feet within six weeks, but his mother had to stay in the hospital longer. “After the transplant I was so excited it was a success. I was on cloud nine. My mom was well. I was healing. I was going to be going home to see my son.”
In January of 2003, Correll’s father, Dave Correll was informed that his wife had a life-threatening Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection at her surgical site. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, MRSA is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body that are tough to treat because it is resistant to many antibiotics.
Correll and his sister, Jennifer Shelton, immediately flew to Nebraska to be at their mother’s side and say their goodbyes. Shelton hadn’t seen her mother since before the organ transplant. When the transplant took place Shelton stayed in Utah to take care of Correll’s son, as well as her own two children.
Correll said that his sister walked into their mother’s hospital room and said “hi mom,” then their mother opened her eyes for a moment before passing away. “I know in my heart that she waited for my sister to get there,” Correll said, “she ended up passing away, but I would do it all over again. It was still an amazing experience. I would love to tell more people about it. People should know to not be scared of organ donation.”
Today, 44-year-old Correll still lives in Ogden, Utah and works as an electrician. He lives an active lifestyle and enjoys spending time outdoors with his girlfriend Jennifer Hansen. When reflecting on his experience Correll says he knows he did the right thing, “it was probably one of the things I was put on this earth to do,” he said. Although Correll did battle feeling guilty for five years after his mother’s death, he says he now understands that he still lengthened her life, and the infection wasn’t his fault.