Louisiana Veteran Becomes 50th Liver Transplant Recipient at DeBakey VA

A little over two weeks after surgery, U.S. Air Force Veteran Ronald Chustz, the 50th liver transplant patient at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, poses with (from left) Dr. Christine O’Mahoney, Dr. Stacey Carter, Samirah Brown, RN, Chiquita Jones, RN, and Brenda Chustz.

TheMichael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) performed its 50th orthotopic liver transplantation on a 69 year-old, U.S. Air Force Veteran from Morganza, La.

The surgery on Ronald Chustz, who suffers from end-stage liver disease, was performed by the MEDVAMC Liver Transplant Team. After the 3-hour operation and 8 days of hospitalization, Chustz’s new liver is functioning perfectly well, Samir Awad, M.D., MEDVAMC Operative Care Line executive said.

The surgery, which took place on November 19, represents a milestone for MEDVAMC in the field of organ transplantation and provides end-stage liver disease Veterans with state-of-the-art care

“The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center’s program for the treatment of liver disease is among the most advanced in the country. Given that we provide excellent care for Veterans with end stage liver disease preoperatively and postoperatively, the ability to meet their transplantation surgical needs is a tremendous advantage,” said Awad.

Partnering with John A. Goss, M.D., surgical director of the MEDVAMC Liver Transplant Program and chief, Division of Abdominal Transplantation at Baylor College of Medicine, the goal of the MEDVAMC Liver Transplant Center is to provide the highest level of care to the Veteran population.

“Dr. Goss made me feel so relaxed and calm before surgery.  I went in without a worry,” said Chustz.

A Vietnam Veteran who worked on C-130 military transport aircraft, Chustz said he and his family are most grateful for the care he received at MEDVAMC and for the availability of the donor organ that saved his life.  “I feel 100 percent better, like a different person,” said Chustz.

“I am alive today because of this hospital and everyone involved in the transplant program. The treatment here is wonderful – perfect!  You couldn’t ask for better.  The nurses are so caring, professional and just plain wonderful.  I feel incredibly blessed because of the gift of life that was bestowed to me from an organ donor and their family,” said Chustz.

Chustz will now receive the standard post-transplant care regimen, including serial monitoring of liver function and immunosuppressive medication levels. The patient will require life-long follow-up at MEDVAMC’s Liver Transplant Center for routine diagnostic follow up.

“I can’t wait to get back to a normal life.  Just getting back to taking care of the yard work will be wonderful,” said Chustz.

The MEDVAMC liver transplant program has been proudly serving our Veterans with end-stage liver disease by performing liver transplantation since 2007. “The liver transplant program performs an average of 57 liver transplant evaluations and places 35 candidates on the list per year,” said transplant nurse coordinator Samirah Brown, RN.

Liver transplant candidates must undergo detailed physical, laboratory and psychological evaluations to ensure proper selection and therapy. Tests are done to confirm the diagnosis of end-stage liver disease, to rule out other potential treatments, and to assess the candidate’s ability to tolerate surgery.

“We have been on an emotional roller coaster since July 6, 2010 when my husband was placed on the transplant list.  This gift of life has provided our family with a whole new life.  We are so grateful,” said Brenda Chustz.

In addition to Goss, Awad and Brown, the multidisciplinary Liver Transplant team at the MEDVAMC includes, transplant surgeon Christine O’Mahony, M.D.; transplant hepatologist Khozema Hussain, M.D.; transplant administrator Skylar Casey; transplant nurse coordinator Chiquita Jones, R.N.; transplant social worker Juleena Masters, LCSW; dietitian Holly Dittmar, RD, and program support assistant Pryncess Jenkins.