Ryan Goodwin knows the meaning of sacrifice.
The 27-year-old from Oklahoma, donated two-thirds of his liver to his mother who was dying from stage 4 liver failure, he told the Huffington Post in an email. A month ago, Goodwin posted a photo of himself on Reddit, taken in 2008 after the three-hour surgery showing a clearly visible scar on his abdomen. The photo has more than 1 million views and 400 comments.
“I remember what it was like to sit there and watch my mother dying, and if I can do anything, anything at all, to help someone move toward saving the life of someone important to them, then I have done what I intended to do and what needed to be done,” Goodwin wrote about his decision to share the photo.
Photo via Imgur. Story continues below:
Since the photo went viral, children and parents in similar situations have contacted Goodwin asking questions and for advice. “Some never knew that living donor organ donation was a possibility, and now they have the knowledge to start the conversation with their sick relative and the hospitals to see if they can move the process forward,” he said.
Goodwin’s mother, Cynthia was on the donor list for five years. She contracted Hepatitis C in the 1980s, most likely from a contaminated blood transfusion, Goodwin told the Huffington Post. With a rare blood type, the chances of receiving a liver transplant from the donor list was slim. “I would have died on the list,” she told the Huffington Post in the same email.
The hospital Goodwin was treated at, University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, offers living-donor liver transplants -- where a living person donates a part of his or her healthy liver to another.
After learning about the option and that he was a match, Ryan Goodwin jumped at the chance to save his mother. His father had died two years earlier and he wasn’t prepared to lose his mother too, he said.
"I feel incredibly guilty, grateful, but guilty," Cynthia Goodwin, 61, told the Huffington Post about her son’s decision to undergo transplant surgery. Having been sick for years, including when her husband died, she didn’t want her son to be in the crosshairs of her recovery.
“After Ryan had been taken back, I had a change of heart. I talked to the nurse in the waiting room and told her to stop the surgery,” she said. Hospital staff told Goodwin that her son’s surgery had already started and there was nothing she could do, Goodwin said.
Four years later, the Goodwins are doing well. Cynthia continues to take anti-rejection medication twice a day, probably for the rest of her life. Ryan, now in law school, has rough hangovers, occasional muscle cramps, and uneven stomach muscles, he said.
The Goodwins are part of a growing number successful transplants. The 10-year survival rate for patients with acute liver failure who had a living donor liver transplant is 73 percent, according to a recent study published in the September issue of Liver Transplantation.
The first human organ transplant was completed in 1954 by the late Dr. Joseph Murray. Since then, over 600,000 people around the world have received life-saving transplants, according to a recent statement made by Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Cynthia Goodwin experienced this firsthand.
“When I woke up my daughter was there,” Cynthia Goodwin said describing her first memories waking up after her four-hour transplant surgery. “The first thing that [my daughter] said was ‘Mom, your eyes aren't yellow anymore!’ (from the jaundice) followed quickly by ‘Ryan is OK.’”