Frank Mullally was getting ready to retire after a 36-year firefighting career when he landed in the hospital with cirrhosis. He had what would later be known as hepatitis C, but at the time, there was no diagnosis for the disease, so it was being referred to as non-hepatitis A and non-hepatitis B.
“RUSH was one of the first centers in the country to be part of the clinical trials for Interferon,” says Donald Jensen, MD, a hepatologist at RUSH. “Frank’s disease was too advanced for those early protocols, but we cared for him through multiple admissions in the ‘90s.”
But Frank’s health kept declining. So much so that Frank was officially put on the list for a new liver in 2000. His first transplant was deemed unviable, but his luck turned when a few days later, they were able to find him another liver.
“By September and October of 2001, I was out in the woods hunting in Wisconsin,” Frank says. “I was going through my normal functions.”
Liver Life Walk and beyond
After recovering from his transplant, Frank celebrated his new liver by participating in the 2001 Liver Life Walk. The Liver Life Walk is the cornerstone event of the American Liver Foundation and provides a way for people affected by liver disease to come together to raise awareness and funds while supporting each other in a festive and inspiring environment.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Valerie Mullally, Frank Mullally’s wife. “There he was, walking with everyone. I remember all those green shirts. We went back every year until we moved out of Chicago.”
Frank and Valerie continued to work with Jensen throughout his time with both RUSH and University of Chicago. He would often bring Jensen deer meat from his hunting in Wisconsin, and vegetables from his garden.
“I have known Frank since the 1980’s,” said Donald. “I think when you care for someone for over 30 years, you really develop a friendship that goes a bit beyond the typical doctor-patient relationship.”
Valerie and Frank are extremely grateful for all the time and effort put in by Jensen and the RUSH staff to secure a liver for Frank.
“Dr. Jensen kept him alive,” Valerie says. “The RUSH teams were incredible and we’re so grateful.”