Health
9:15 am
Mon July 21, 2014

A Husband, A Wife, A Liver

In 2004, Derek Janiak was struck by a string of migraines. His energy faded and he began losing weight. Doctors thought it might be cancer.

Further testing showed Janiak had a rare liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). The prognosis was 10-15 years of slowly worsening health, and then he’d require a transplant.

Derek’s wife, Logan Shannon, works at New Hampshire Public Radio. Over the past year, she and her husband agreed to share their story with NHPR's Health Reporter Todd Bookman.

PSC slowly attacks the bile ducts in the liver, causing them to narrow and harden, eventually leading to organ failure. Along the way, symptoms include fatigue, severe itching and jaundice.

Derek claims he never felt all that sick, despite his deteriorating condition. He continued to work as an engineer, to help around the house and in the yard. That all changed, though, last fall on the night the Red Sox won the World Series.

After months of tests, Logan's liver is approved for transplant. Doctor will splice a little more than half of it, remove Derek's failing organ, and reattach his wife's portion in its place. Ideally, both halves will regrow. 

Surgery at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts takes place on April 14th. While the procedure goes smoothly, within 72 hours problems begin to emerge. An artery leading into Derek's new organ collapses. Doctors perform another operation, but they aren't able to save the transplanted graft.

After three weeks of waiting in the hospital, a deceased organ donor provides the liver that saves Derek's life. Thirty pounds lighter and weakened, he's now slowly recovering at home. Logan is back working part-time. 

During the year spent preparing for his liver transplant, Derek only wrote one song. But it is a doozy. 

The video of Derek playing  "Send in the Clowns," among other songs, in the hospital lobby.

Some photos courtesy of Greta Rybus. www.gretarybus.com