Feb. 9—NORWALK —
His aunt and uncle prompted the 55-year-old to go to the doctor, where he found out his yellow skin was jaundice, a telltale sign of liver failure. Doctors told last Carlson in March he had three to six months to live. He has beaten the odds, surviving almost a year past his his diagnosis, but his condition is dire, said his aunt,
Now Carlson's family is speaking out to see if they can find a liver donor to step up and provide a life-saving transplant.
"When you need the transplant, you need it," Kaplan said. "Your liver can shut down whenever you have end-stage liver disease, which he is."
The family already launched a webpage in search of a donor for Carlson, who they describe as kind and generous.
"The things that are important to James are God, family and friends, eating, cooking and going fishing in that order," said his uncle,
While Carlson is on a waitlist for a donation from a deceased donor, livers are the second most in-demand organs in the country, per the
Liver donations can also be from living donors if someone steps up and volunteers. Livers will regenerate on their own, meaning if a person donates part of their liver to someone in need, their own liver will grow back within several weeks.
"We are trying to get a living donor because James is so ill that he may not make it to wait for a deceased liver," said Howard. "It is very difficult to get a donor living or deceased and that is why we are making this appeal."
However, according to the
Carlson is part of a large, tight-knit family with deep roots in
"They stepped up," Carol said. "We all did. I said I'd donate, my sister would donate, my brothers would donate, but they don't want that because it takes too long for a little piece of liver to regenerate."
An ideal donor would be between 20 and 55 years old, Carol said, and have no serious health problems such as heart conditions, diabetes or cancer. A donor has already fallen through for having a history of strokes, she added.
Carol said she isn't sure how much longer Carlson can last without a transplant. Her nephew has already had to give up work and most of his independence as a result of his disease and remains hospitalized at
"I want there to be a real understanding about what liver disease is, how it hits you mentally, physically and in daily living," she said. "Your whole life has changed, really, it's just everything has changed. It's not like it was a slow impact thing. It hits you and that's it. When the jaundice sets in, you have a real problem."
Unlike kidney disease, where patients can go on dialysis to stay alive, nothing can be done to help a patient whose liver is failing, Carol said.
Carlson was working full time up until last February, Carol said, until he became too ill to go to work. The side effects of his liver disease have been severe: He's had fluid build up in his stomach that hasrequired draining and swelling in his feet.
Carlson also developed hepatic encephalopathy, which causes an inability to think clearly and has resulted in hospitalization.
"Life changed tremendously. He was pretty healthy," Carol said. "He probably overextended himself because he wanted to help get (his daughter) through college. ... We really didn't see anything coming."
Carol said her nephew has gone from someone who wanted to work as much as possible to needing someone to drive him everywhere.
"Liver failure affects every part of your life," said Howard. "Sometimes you can't think straight, along with having your stomach drained of excess fluid and your legs and feet swell to the point where you can't walk."
The strain has extended to the family: Carol and her husband have stepped up to help Carlson along with his other extended relatives, like going to the hospital with Carlson to answer questions because he's sometimes too disoriented to do so himself.
The family said anyone who donates would have their medical expenses covered by Carlson's insurance
"It's your time and your selflessness to donate,"
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