August 31, 2007
BY ZLATI MEYER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Workers usually share cubicle walls, office gossip and the occasional restaurant lunch, but two Detroit Institute of Arts staffers now are forever linked by the gift of life.
Grant writer Ann Serra, 42, who has had autoimmune hepatitis for two decades, often chatted with Denise Harting, an IT manager, about their children.
Then, last March, Harting's simple "How are you doing?" -- a question asked millions of times near water coolers nationwide -- catapulted the friends to a life-changing decision. When Serra explained she was on the organ transplant waiting list, Harting, a 47-year-old Commerce Township resident, considered donating.
"It got me going," Harting said Thursday, when she and Serra returned to Henry Ford Hospital for one of several post-transplant checkups. "Jeff, my 7-year-old, said, 'You're doing it, right?' "
After tests determined Harting and Serra were a compatible match, Serra, who lives in Wyandotte, was able to bypass the 18,000-name waiting list for a liver. On Aug. 6, surgeons transplanted part of Harting's liver into Serra during a 13 1/2 -hour operation.
A living-donor adult-to-adult transplant between non-relatives is rare, according to Dr. Atsushi Yoshida. The transplant surgeon explained that the piece of Harting's liver now in Serra will grow to size, as will the remainder in Harting.
In autoimmune hepatitis, the body's own immune system attacks the liver.
The illness "completely impacted every decision," said Serra, the mother of two. "I would've liked three children. I got my master's in three years, not because I'm smart, but because I thought I might die."
But with the chunk of healthy organ came an infusion of energy and the opportunity to enjoy foods Serra hadn't eaten in years, like chili dogs, french fries and root beer floats. She no longer sleeps a lot or finds it hard to stand.
"Tragedy brings out the best in people," said Serra, whose 9-year-old daughter, Sydney, offered up a piece of her own liver after no relatives or friends were eligible or willing.
The two women smiled as they shared their ultimate story of friendship, but reminders of the transplant's seriousness emerged occasionally, like when Harting held the incision spot on her right side, which hurt when she laughed.
Harting's reason for volunteering stemmed from their common experience -- motherhood. She said that having three kids the same age as Serra's made her stop and think what life would be like for them without a mom.
Read the full Detroit Free Press article.
“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Sign Your Donor Card & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”