SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — A Perry County native and former Hazard Bulldog decided to become a living donor after reading a Facebook post of a mutual friend needing a liver after her close friend shared it on Facebook.
Tammy Ekrut of Fort Worth, Texas and formerly of Perry County, donated 64 percent of her liver on Dec. 8 at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. The recipient of the transplant was Mike Pettijohn.
This type of surgery is called a right lobe hepatctomy and was performed by Dr. Glenn Halff. It was their 200th transplant for Dr. Halff and his team this year. Erkut was in surgery for four hours and Pettijohn was in surgery for six hours. Dr. Halff and his team had to completely remove Pettijohn’s liver before they performed the right lobe hepatectomy
Ekrut explained the reason why she decided to become a living donor, “I’ve had a very blessed life and I’ve been given so much in my own life, any opportunity to give back is something I’m interested in doing and when this came along it just sounded like something I would be interested in pursuing.”
She has been a blood donor since she graduated from high school.
Ekrut says that her Christian faith and her relationship with God plays a large part in her donations.
Pettijohn and Ekrut shared a mutual friend on Facebook. After being moved by Pettijohn’s shared Facebook post, Ekrut filled out the application on the transplant center’s website. She received a phone call the next day telling her that she was invited to a two day testing to see if she was eligible for the liver transplant donation. The tests took place on Aug. 24-25. The tests included: liver testing, a cardiology workup, a psychiatric evaluation, surgical consult and a meeting with a social worker.
Up to this point, Ekrut and Pettijohn, along with Pettijohn’s wife Bekah, had only been in contact by phone. Erkut and Pettijohn met up for dinner in San Antonio during Ekrut’s two day of tests.
“This sweet couple has been so gracious and loving to me, I feel like I’ve been the one who has received the greater gift. Our whole family feels like we have gained four new members,” said Ekrut of her first meeting with Pettijohn and Bekah.
On Sept. 14, the transplant committee met to discuss whether or not they would determine to move forward with the surgery.
“It was a long day of waiting. I got the call at 5:30 with the long awaited yes! Surgery was scheduled for Oct. 27,” said Erkut.
Erkut shared the story of the process leading up to the surgery with her friends, family and church members. For those who Erkut told Pettijohn’s story, they shared it with their network of friends and family.
“It is incredibly humbling. It is a beautiful thing when the people of God come together to pray for his best to happen,” said Erkut.
The day of the surgery, Erkut and Pettijohn were side by side in the pre op rooms when a surgeon came in and told them that the surgery had been cancelled.
“We were so close,” said Erkut.
Though Erkut and Pettijohn were both devastated when they learned the surgery was cancelled, Erkut said it strengthened their faith in God and their love for one another.
The reason why the surgery had been cancelled was because Pettijohn had developed an infection in his hand that ended up needing surgery. He spent several days in the hospital after the surgery.
Another reason why the surgery had been cancelled was because an EKG done on Ekrut showed an abnormality that gave doctors enough concern to cancel the surgery. She would later find out that the EKG had been administered incorrectly.
After arriving home, Erkut scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist. The cardiologist did another EKG, and assured Ekrut that she had no history of heart attack or heart disease. The cardiologist sent a letter to the transplant committee stating that Erkut was all clear for surgery.
The committee met again and agreed to reschedule the surgery for Dec. 8. Both Pettijohn and Erkut had pre op appointments on Dec. 7, and it allowed them to visit each other in the waiting rooms.
“Each visit confirmed this was the right choice,” said Erkut.
The surgery was successful. Erkut was hospitalized for six days after the surgery for recovery. Erkut said her recovery was pretty easy, but she said that she was sore for a while.
She didn’t mind the hospital stay, because it gave her a chance to check in on Pettijohn, Erkut said.
“We were just down the hallway from each other… The longer I was in there where he was, I could keep an eye on him,” said Erkut.
Erkut’s employer, XTO Energy Inc., had been supportive of her since the beginning of the process and her time off was covered under their short-term disability.
“My immediate supervisor and the other members of our department have been amazing,” said Erkut.
Pettijohn’s normal recovery from the surgery would have been between 6-12 days, but he had some intestinal complications that were caused by being awoken from the surgery.
Though, Erkut could confirm, that “the liver is doing great in him.”
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.