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National Leaders in Liver Transplant, Interview with Cathy and William Chapman, MD, FACS

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Published on Jan 21, 2014

For more information about liver transplant at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center, visit: http://www.barnesjewish.org/liver-tra...

Cathy's Story:
Cathy Dunnagan felt fine, getting up every day to manage her lawn-care business and raise her daughter, who was about to leave home for college. She had just one health complaint, she was itchy.

Though used to being healthy, Cathy finally went to see a doctor who ran tests showing her liver enzymes were high and then recommended additional tests at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. And that's where she was given the diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer affecting the liver's bile duct.

Cathy was referred to William Chapman, MD, FACS, a Washington University surgeon and chief of the Abdominal Transplant Section at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He told Cathy she needed a liver transplant; the location of the cancer made surgical removal impossible. "I asked Dr. Chapman if I'd be able to see my daughter graduate from college. He said 'Yes.'"

The kind of liver transplant and treatment Cathy needed was only being done in clinical trials at two hospitals, which meant she had two options: receive care at Barnes-Jewish or travel to the Mayo Clinic. "Barnes-Jewish was just 25 minutes from my front door," says Cathy. She made her decision.

The first part of treatment included weeks of chemotherapy and radiation to help keep the cancer from affecting other organs. "Afterward, Cathy had a limited surgery to make sure the cancer hadn't spread," says Dr. Chapman. "She was on a waiting list for a donor liver for about six months."

The transplant was followed by an 11-day hospital stay. She was finally released to home and family, but on July 1, problems arose and she returned to Barnes-Jewish. Dr. Chapman says Cathy experienced a rare transplant complication that required him to remove the organ he had placed just a few weeks earlier. "We had 24 hours to find a new liver," Dr. Chapman says.

After the second transplant, Cathy needed a good deal of time to heal. And she has. Dr. Chapman says, "Cathy's prognosis is excellent. The further out she is from transplant, the lower the risk for a recurrence of cancer."

Cathy says, "Dr. Chapman and Barnes-Jewish saved my life." And that college graduation? Dr. Chapman was right; Cathy was there.

For more information about Cathy, visit: http://www.barnesjewish.org/patient-s...

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