Giving the Gift of Life
Orangeville man proves there are still angels among us, with the donation of a portion of his liver to a young niece
|Shaun Bell with his wife Kris.|
Orangeville resident Shaun Bell recently gave the gift of life to his young niece, Samrah Bears, age 4, by donating a portion of his liver. Kris Bell said, "Sammy belongs to my sister Tiffany and they live in St. George. Sammy was born with a rare liver disease which is similar to cirrhosis of the liver and results in kidney failure. She has had to live with an ostomy bag. She has been a very sick little girl her whole life. She has also had three surgeries.
"She always looked jaundiced and her skin had a yellow or orange tint to it all of the time. Sammy needed a liver transplant and my husband Shaun had told me a long time ago that he thought he was a match for Sammy. This was a long time ago even before any testing was done to see if a match could be found.
"Shaun has been attending the police academy in Salt Lake since August and we were told originally that Sammy's transplant would take place after the first of the year. Sammy got sick again and we received a call on Dec. 11 to bring Shaun in for testing. The blood work and an angiogram was done and everything checked out fine and Shaun was a perfect match. His surgery was scheduled for Dec. 15 at 7:30 a.m.
"Shaun was getting ready for surgery and he called me in there and I had to put on the scrub clothes and I went in, he said, 'Are you OK' and I just started crying and he said you just have to be tough like me and he started flexing his muscles, he was really great about the whole thing," said Kris.
Shaun said, "I have been taking the 17 week course at the police academy and stayed at the dorms in Salt Lake and would come home on the weekends. I didn't think that I would be able to finish the course and would have to take the part I missed over again and finish it another time. The drill instructor, Sergeant Kyle Bushnell said that they would do everything they could to help me get through the course. He came and gave me the last three tests of my police officers standard training in the hospital. Kris and I worked on the questions for the tests for hours. She would read me the questions and I would write down the answers.
"I have worked for the sheriff's office for about six and a half years now, I've worked as a jailer and in dispatch. I had an interest in attending the academy and learning more about it.
"It was some time during the pheasant hunt when we learned that Sammy wasn't doing good. I didn't know what blood type I was, but I thought I would be a match. One of the side effects from the operation was they told me not to be too active in sports, but there wasn't anything too bad. I didn't really think about the side effects. There won't be anything that I can't overcome. I had already passed and completed the physical training at the police academy. We ran for a mile and a half and did pushups and situps and a lot of stretching. We tested three times for fitness throughout the training. The school said I had done enough by midterm so the operation didn't effect that.
|Samrah Bears, the recipient of part of Shaun's liver.|
"I really enjoyed the training at the police academy. We had to be up and ready by 7 a.m. It was just like the military. We had to be clean shaven and have a short haircut every morning. We even marched. When we entered a building we had to have our hats off and in our left hand and when we left the building we had to have our hats on. If we forgot then we had to do pushups. All these rules helped us to develop discipline.
"Giving Sammy part of my liver was just the right thing to do and anybody would of done the same thing. I knew I had to do it and I didn't think twice about it. I didn't consider the side effects...none of that was important.
"Sammy is doing really good. She is still in the hospital and has one IV left in her. She will have to stay in Salt Lake for a while to make sure that there aren't any complications. She will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life. The doctors said there weren't any complications and that it was a perfect match. The blood started flowing through her new liver immediately and her coloring started to return to normal within a day. She did have really dark yellow urine and within a day it had returned to a normal color.
"They gave Sammy the left lobe of my liver. We have two lobes in our livers and it was about one-third of my liver that they gave to Sammy. Sometimes they have to leave the recipient open for a few days for the liver to grow to fit the space or to shrink to fit the space . . . sometimes this could take up to a month, but in Sammy's case my liver fit in her perfectly and they were able to sew her up right after the operation. I had 41 staples closing the incision in my stomach.
"I was in surgery for six and a half hours and went into surgery an hour before Sammy. They were worried about scar tissue being present from Sammy's previous surgeries and her surgery started an hour later. The doctors were just amazed with how smoothly things went," said Shaun.
Kris said, "It was interesting during the surgeries to hear the updates. They would let us know how both Shaun and Sammy were doing throughout the operations. They said that they have a lot of success with living donors and the liver can go straight into the recipient. They hope to do a lot more with living donors in the future. Sammy's family is so relieved. Tiffany is looking forward to having a normal little girl. Sammy has required 24 hour care and she has had to take tons of medicine. It's lucky that Sammy has been sick her whole life because she doesn't know any different kind of life. Everything is going smoothly now. Everything was a match....it was just meant to be.
"Family and friends have been really great to help out while Sammy has been in the hospital and Tiffany has been living at the hospital," said Kris.
Shaun said, "I will be able to go back to work in about two months. I hope I can go back sooner. They told me to do a lot of walking and not to lift anything. The sheriff's office and the police academy were great to do everything they could to get me through the academy so I could pass my course. They were really good to me. The people at Primary Children's hospital were really great. They said I was a good patient because I was so big and could tell them what I needed. The nurses said I was the biggest patient they ever had.
|The incision from the transplant required 41 staples, referred to as Shaun's railroad tracks.|
"I'm really kind of sad my police training is over....it was good training and it was all worth it," said Shaun.
Shaun was in the hospital for five days and went straight from his hospital bed to his graduation ceremony at the police academy.
Sheriff Lamar Guymon said, "I'm really proud of Shaun and the sacrifice he made so his young niece will have a chance at a normal life.
At Christmas time, people feel more giving and I wish these feelings could last all year long.
"I think Shaun has given the ultimate Christmas gift and he has demonstrated the true spirit of Christmas which is to give of yourself to others. We wish Shaun the best in his recovery and look forward to having him back at the sheriff's office," said Sheriff Guymon.