What I wish we knew: A letter to the Journal of Liver Transplantation

Earlier this month, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal of Liver Transplantation, “Family longs for post-liver transplant success that goes beyond the biomedical.” I’m grateful that they published it. I’m sharing it here in case anyone out there loves a liver transplant patient or someone with cirrhosis or alcoholism.

This letter requires context, and I’ve been struggling with how much context to provide. My dad was a dual-transplant patient, first receiving a liver transplant in 2017 then a kidney transplant in 2021. He was a high-functioning alcoholic who was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 2015, which led to liver failure and eventual transplant. Since his death almost a year ago, I’ve written well over 20,000 words infused with anger, rage, sadness, despair, shame, and embarrassment. In preparing this post alone, I’ve written over 2,000 words. I’m not ready to share them with the world yet, maybe not ever. I really don’t know.

But I will say this:

The letter says what I want to say right now. I’m posting it to my blog because I don’t want other families to go through what my family went through. My dad might still be alive if transplant medicine integrated mental health care into their protocols and if my dad had more fully understood how integral mental health was to his physical health. I spent years trying to get him and his team to understand that. I’m grateful that the Journal of Liver Transplantation is publishing work in this area. This letter shares what I wish my family and I knew at the start of my dad’s transplant journey.

Please, if you love someone who struggles with alcoholism, was diagnosed with cirrhosis, or is a transplant patient at any stage, read this letter. Share it with your transplant team. Talk to them about mental health care for your loved one, yourself, and your family.

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