Kent Larson's Mayo Clinic visits involved multiple surgeries, some of which were almost 50 years apart. Here Kent shares his story of the care that changed his life.
Written by Kent Larson
My symptoms started in January 2016. I was weak, I had swollen legs and my blood pressure was low. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I went to my doctor, a cardiologist and then a gastroenterologist. For several months, the gastrointestinal doctor thought that he could repair the damage to my liver, which showed signs of hepatitis. But in September, I was at liver failure and he referred me to Mayo Clinic liver transplant program .
Although test results confirmed that I needed a new liver, the number used to determine my place on the list as a viable candidate for a transplant was low. While I was waiting, my health continued to decline. In addition to retaining a lot of fluid, which required weekly elimination known as paracentesis, my hemoglobin was extremely low. Many times, my organs almost stopped and I passed from one unit of blood a week to three units a week.
In December, the stress on my kidneys was too much, and they failed too. I was on dialysis three times a week, which I started hating because I always felt horrible for a day or so afterwards.
Kidney failure I had accumulated even more fluid, and I started twice a week paracentesis. At each appointment, nearly 20 pounds of fluid were extracted from my body.
At the beginning of the year 2017, I had lost 75 pounds, I had no energy or stamina, I lacked appetite and I had constantly cold. My doctors have discussed the use of a feeding tube to treat my malnutrition. The days have become weeks and months. Even though I kept a positive attitude, I knew I was about to die.
When I woke up the next morning, after a six and a half hour surgery performed by Kristopher Croome, M.D., I remember thinking that it was a miracle that everything worked perfectly. – Kent Larson
On April 22, 2017, around 11 pm, I received a call from Mayo letting me know that a liver and a kidney from the same donor had become available. My sister Marci, who was my caregiver, and I were cautiously optimistic because we had received three calls in the previous months when the organs that were available did not suit me.
Fortunately, everything was set up and I entered surgery. When I woke up the next morning, after a six-and-a-half-hour surgery performed by Kristopher Croome, M.D. I remember thinking about what a miracle it was that everything worked perfectly. I spent six days at the hospital before being sent home.
Today, five months later, I am doing well, humble to be alive and grateful for every day. Throughout this trip, the support I received from doctors, nurses, and technicians from the Mayo Clinic was amazing. They became my second family.
Surprisingly, it was no different from my first experience at the Mayo Clinic, almost 50 years ago. Living in rural North Dakota, I was just 14 years old and I was seriously injured in a toboggan crash. My sled hit a tree, and the side splint was detached and penetrated my abdomen, cutting my ureter and urethra, and tearing my colon. After an emergency surgery in my hometown, I was sent to the Rochester Campus of the Mayo Clinic and I had four additional operations to repair the damage.
"I am excited to take full advantage of life and enjoy the natural beauty of our country, there is no doubt that if I had not gone to Mayo, I would not would not be here today. " – Kent Larson
Mayo Clinic has saved my life twice now. I am very grateful for this second chance, and I wrote a letter to the family of donors to tell them how much they gave me a wonderful gift.
In the future, I plan to volunteer with local organizations to educate the public about the importance of donating blood, tissues and organs. I also share my story with everyone I meet, hoping to encourage someone else to become an organ donor.
I love to travel and I can not wait to explore new places. Next February, I will visit the Hawaiian Islands for the first time with my sister. One of my goals is to visit all the national parks of the United States. I just got back from Grand Canyon and plan a trip to Yosemite National Park next year.
I look forward to living my life to the full and enjoying the natural beauty of our country. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not gone to Mayo, I would not be here today.