Mike Loudon is a tough guy, like his father, who once was a cowboy, and his grandfather, who worked as a county court bailiff. "I was raised to be strong mentally, that when you have a problem, you deal with it the best you can," he says. |
Loudon was a construction worker until his arm was crushed in an on-the-job accident, and he's broken other bones playing and working hard over the years. His toughest days, though, came after he was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2007. The cancer was the result of Loudon previously contracting hepatitis C, which then went undetected, possibly for decades.
In 2008, Loudon was told he'd need a liver transplant to live, but his illness also had caused him to develop pulmonary hypertension — high blood pressure in his lungs and heart — and the hospital where he was receiving his care wouldn't perform the operation. "They thought it was too high risk because of the pulmonary hypertension," he says.
A Second Opinion Leads to a Second Chance
Loudon was referred to Rush University Medical Center, where the medical team led by Forrest Dodson, MD, director of abdominal transplantation, frequently takes on cases other hospitals won't touch. "Dr. Dodson took the time to explain everything. He didn't sugarcoat the seriousness of the illness or the surgery itself, but at the same time he told me they could do it, and I believed him," Loudon says.
In September 2008, Loudon went on the waiting list for an organ donor. "Because of the pulmonary hypertension, I needed a liver that was a perfect match," he explains. "I tried to live a normal life, but I never ever let my cell phone go. Every time it rang, I was hoping for it to be a Rush number. Meanwhile, I was getting sicker and sicker, in and out of the hospital."
Finally, on Feb. 17, 2009, Loudon got the call he was waiting for while at his job as a watchman at a water filtration plant on Navy Pier. He raced to Rush, where he was prepped for surgery immediately upon his arrival, but he insisted on waiting for his wife, Anna, to get to the hospital so he could see her one more time before he went into surgery.
The operation took more than 10 hours because Loudon's blood pressure spiked repeatedly, forcing his surgeon, Edie Chan, MD, to wait for it to come down. When he regained consciousness afterwards, he was relieved. "I knew I didn't die because I felt so lousy," he says, laughing.
Back to Health, Step by Step
Loudon spent days on a ventilator in the Rush intensive care unit. "The nurses there were incredible," he remembers. "Every time I rang the bell, they were right there. And in the meantime, it seemed like very 15 minutes one of them would come in and ask if I needed anything."
After weeks in the hospital he went back to his northwest Chicago home. His disease had caused him to lose all his muscle mass, and he immediately began to work on his own recovery, starting by just walking around the house. By last summer, Loudon was back to his old routine, walking three miles a day with his three beagles in the forest preserve near his home. His transplant has made his pulmonary hypertension, and the severe shortness of breath it caused, a thing of the past. "I can do three miles standing on my head, and before I couldn't get out the door," he says.
He returns to Rush for monthly lab tests and quarterly visits with his hepatologist, David Van Thiel, MD. In addition to taking anti-rejection medication twice a day, Loudon recently began a regimen of weekly interferon shots to eradicate his hepatitis. He maintains a healthier diet, eating more fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken instead of steak, and whole grains instead of white flour. He also continues his longstanding practice of meditating for 10 minutes each morning and evening.
"I feel good and happy and content," he says. "I try to keep a positive attitude and do my part. It's not what happens to you in life, it's how you deal with it."
More Information at Your Fingertips:
- Join experts from Rush University Medical Center on Wednesday, June 3, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for "The Life-Changing World of Transplant Medicine." Learn more about kidney, liver and pancreas transplants as well as guidelines for organ and tissue donation. Whether you or a loved one are awaiting transplant or you would like to learn more about becoming an organ donor, join us for this fascinating discussion about how innovations in transplant medicine have revolutionized care for otherwise debilitating or terminal conditions. For more information or to register, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).
- Rush has a number of programs dedicated to organ and tissue transplantation. To explore individual organ and tissue transplant programs, visit the transplant programs home page on the Rush Web site at www.rush.edu/transplant.
- Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (888 352-7874)
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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