YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — UPMC Memorial opened a new liver transplant evaluation clinic this year. It’s saving Midstate residents from traveling far as they go to their appointments leading up to surgery.
Doctors say liver disease is daunting enough without having to travel. This gives patients access to experts close to home.
“Gaining weight, my legs got really weak where I was falling a lot,” said Pamela Laucks of York. “I actually fell and broke my hip.”
So, going far for care isn’t a good option for Laucks.
“I just have to be real careful when I drive,” said Laucks.
The 63-year-old recently found out she has decompensated liver disease and needs a transplant.
Laucks was the first patient seen at the Liver Transplant Evaluation Clinic at UPMC Memorial.
“I just want to get the transplant done,” said Laucks.
The facility is speeding up the process.
It offers blood and diagnostic tests, imaging services, and other consults; it’s basically everything a liver patient needs before going to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh for surgery.
“Once they start decompensating, they can spiral down or they can stabilize, and there’s no way of knowing that, so they need a very close follow up,” said Dr. Swaytha Ganesh, the medical director of the UPMC Living-Donor Program.
When you’re on the clock of a disease, all of your time matters, including that spent in the car.
The clinic spares Midstate residents from significant travel.
“I’ve been there for the last three days,” said Laucks.
“Some patients are disadvantaged in the way that they may not be able to travel to Pittsburgh, so this clinic would offer those services to the patients right at their doorstep,” said Dr. Ganesh.
UPMC also has liver transplant clinics in the Harrisburg, Erie and Williamsport areas.
Another goal of adding this one to West Manchester Township is to decrease wait times and increase the number of living-donor transplants.
Those involve transplanting a portion of a healthy person’s liver to an unhealthy person. That’s possible because the liver regenerates itself.
UPMC says 25% of Americans with liver disease will die because of a lack of available organs.
These procedures are giving people like Laucks hope.
“For her, it is lifesaving and the only option she has,” said Dr. Ganesh.
Laucks is hoping one of her daughters is a match.
While she has no exact timeline for her surgery, she’s thankful she gets to stay close to home until the big day.
“I’m looking forward to feeling a whole lot better when this is over,” said Laucks.
Last year, UPMC was the only facility in the country to do more living-donor than deceased-donor liver transplants.