Two years ago, Jennifer Ragaini watched as a liver disease slowly ate away at her husband Matthew, whose weight at one point dropped to just 100 pounds.
“I basically thought that my husband was dying in front of my eyes,” Jennifer, 40, told WTNH.
Matthew, 36, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) 12 years ago, and had been placed on a transplant waiting list in 2010. The chronic disease slowly damages the bile ducts and causes scarring, according to the American Liver Foundation. It gradually damages the liver cells and causes cirrhosis which damages the liver’s ability to function. PSC typically causes liver failure within 10-15 years from the time of diagnosis. While the family searched for a donor on Facebook and waited to hear from his doctors, his condition continued to worsen, WTNH reported.
“You get to a point where you’re just so depressed and you think nothing’s going to happen and pretty much that’s going to be it – that your life is going to be over,” Matthew told the news outlet.
But after two years of waiting, Jennifer decided -- against her husband’s wishes -- to get tested to see if she was a match.
“I said, ‘No way, we can’t both be in the hospital with an 8-year-old doctor,’” Matthew told WTNH.
But when an MRI proved Jennifer would be a perfect match, the surgery was scheduled for February 2015 at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The surgical team, led by Dr. David Mulligan and Dr. AnnMarie Liapakis, transplanted the right lobe of Jennifer’s liver to Matthew. Mulligan told the news outlet that the liver regenerates in both the donor and the recipient.
“It can be extraordinarily emotional as one wants to save the life of their spouse, yet also be aware that events can happen that could create unexpected tragedies as well,” Mulligan told TODAY.
The couple, who have recovered in the two years since the transplant, told TODAY that they now celebrate both a wedding anniversary and a “Liverversary.”
“I feel that God put us together for this reason and now we’re one,” Jennifer told TODAY. “I feel closer than ever to him.”
The Ragainis are now working to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation, and volunteer with Donate Life to match potential donors with patients.