Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

February 16, 2021

Daughter quits smoking to donate liver to her mom

By SharingMayoClinic

When she learned that a liver transplant could save her mom's life, April Wilson didn't hesitate to stop smoking and say yes to being a living donor.

April Wilson smoked for 25 years and tried many times to quit, but nothing seemed to work.

"I tried everything," April says. "I used every replacement therapy, Chantix, Wellbutrin, patches, gum, cold turkey, hypnosis, inhaler."

It wasn't until her mom, Mary Lou Walker, was battling liver disease and needed a transplant that April was able to succeed in her goal.

Suddenly the motivation was not just for her own health. She needed to quit to become a living donor for her mom.

After learning that her sister wasn't a match to donate for their mom, April was tested for compatibility. She had to quit smoking for a month before she could be tested.

So she quit, stuck with it, got tested and was found to be a match to be a living donor.

"My liver was a blessing in disguise, as she is now smoke-free," says Mary Lou.

My liver was a blessing in disguise, as she is now smoke-free.

Mary Lou Walker

After the diagnosis, a home-town physician in Iowa arranged for Mary Lou to be seen at Mayo Clinic for a second opinion and treatment, which was good, since she had already decided that was her choice, too.

When asked if she had any concerns about donating, April replies, "I did a lot of praying prior to the actual donation surgery, and that, along with the expertise of the transplant team, made getting up on the operating table so easy. Plus, I love my mom immensely, so knowing that she would be around longer was the biggest benefit."

The transplant surgery happened at Mayo Clinic in October 2019, and Mary Lou has moved forward on the road to recovery and a healthier life.

"Outside of the fact that my biliary tract wouldn't stay open, and I needed stents inserted and removed every three months after the transplant, I feel healthier," Mary Lou says. "My energy level has risen. I don't fall asleep in the middle of conversations. And I am looking forward to many more years with my loved ones."

April says her liver has regenerated, and her lungs are healing after quitting smoking.

April encourages anyone considering being a living donor to look into it.

After seeing the potential complications and how rare the more serious ones were, to me, it was a no-brainer to donate.

April Wilson

"Research, research, research. After seeing the potential complications and how rare the more serious ones were, to me, it was a no-brainer to donate," she says. "Ask questions, get into a group of others who have donated, and get teamed up with a mentor."

Mary Lou supports that completely and is doing her part to encourage others to do just that.

"I love to talk about the need for living donors," she says. "I am living proof of what a donor can do for a person in need."

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Tags: Liver Transplant, Transplant

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