Ashton Culey, Transplant Recipient

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I have a new lease on life...

Born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota, the youngest of three boys.

I was born with biliary atresia. I developed jaundice, and was lucky to have had a doctor who recognized what I had. I was life flighted to Omaha, where the Kasai procedure was performed. My folks were told that I would need a liver transplant someday.

The procedure served me well, as did Dr. Steven Benn. I went through school with bouts of ascending cholangitis with hospital stays, but, otherwise, I played hard like any other boy. I would snow board like a beast and even was the goalie for my senior soccer team!

My senior year of school, Dad took a job in Arizona and Dr. Benn wasn’t going to be able to follow me after I turned 18.

In January of my senior year I contracted E.coli. Several rounds of antibiotics couldn’t kick it completely, I went downhill very fast!

In August of that year I was taken to Mayo in Phoenix, they set me up with a Doctor – I was too sick to make it to the appointment, I was put in the hospital.

They had to place drains, the infection pooled in the liver, and within a month I had two external bags that hung to the side.

By October they were putting me through the transplant evaluation and tons of tests. It was all scary.

The official letter arrived on Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving 2015, and on Thanksgiving Day I got the first call offering me a liver! This one wasn’t a fit, so someone else was saved that day. A day and a half later, another call. After hours in the hospital, that one was too big and also went to another person.

December 1, THE call. We took our time expecting another no-go, ate dinner and went to Mayo. Amazingly we were a go. Dr. Reddy showed me a picture of my new liver, beautiful. We were told a 6-hour surgery, all done less than four hours.

I was out of the hospital in four days and by New Year’s I was released from the clinic.

Having a donor and their family give so selflessly has given me a new lease on life that I don’t plan on wasting!

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