A new lease on life
Josh Smitley received a new liver during a transplant operation Sunday, March 3, at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis and has progressed so well that he might be coming home later this week.
Smitley, 25, Lanesville, says he is feeling real good, progressing well and very happy to have received the transplant after almost five years of dealing with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare liver disease usually diagnosed in men in their mid-30s and can prove fatal.
“There is someone here right now evaluating me to see if I can leave the hospital today,” Smitley said Monday by telephone. “I will be required to stay close by the medical center for a few days to attend a clinic on Thursday to make sure that my medication is OK, but there is a very nice hotel attached to the hospital.”
Barbara Smitley, Josh’s mother, said Friday that doctors detected some signs of organ rejection in Josh’s blood count, but by adjusting his medication, that was easily corrected by the next morning.
“It is amazing that Josh can leave the hospital so soon,” Barbara Smitley said. “He has a huge incision where the transplant was done but is making great strides in his recovery because he was in good health and had worked all the time while waiting for the transplant.
“We will leave the hospital today (Monday) and stay at the hotel here in Indianapolis until Thursday when Josh can attend a clinic to make sure that his medication is working and to have the billirubin count done, which will tell us how well his new liver is working,” said Barbara. “The doctors don’t want Josh to have to travel back and forth so soon.”
“Everyone in my family says I look better, and the yellow tinge I had to my skin and eyes has gone,” Smitley said. “I’m feeling real good, and there have been no problems related to the surgery. I’m ready to go home”
The surgery to implant the new liver began about 2 p.m. last Sunday and took almost eight hours. Smitley was the third person to get a liver transplant that week at the medical center.
Smitley said he expects to recover at home in Lanesville for several months before doctors will allow him to go back to work at United Parcel Service (UPS).
He said he’s relieved to have gotten the transplant, which will save his life, but he’s sorry that someone had to die to help him. “I heard that the donor was from the Fort Wayne area, but they keep that information confidential,” Smitley said.
“It was quite a surprise to get a call on Saturday evening (March 2), about 9:15, telling us that a liver had been found,” Smitley said. “I wasn’t really prepared for it, but my whole family and I left that night and drove to the medical center in Indianapolis.” Smitley had been on the liver transplant list since April 2000.
“Sunday before the surgery, my whole family on my mother’s side showed up at the hospital, and there were about 20 people supporting me and wishing me well,” Smitley said.
“It means a lot to me to have such a close family. All the support that I have received from friends and family is very flattering and comforting. The prayers and thoughts of the people around me and in the community have been a big help. When I think about it, it almost brings me to tears.”
Randy Smitley, Josh’s father, said, “We are extremely pleased to have gotten this transplant, and there aren’t enough words for us to express our thanks to the community for all the support they have given us.”
Several fund-raising events are planned to help the Smitleys build up a transplant fund. A yard sale will be held April 6 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Lanesville and a sale of annual flowers will be ongoing through the spring.
Jane Lasher, a fund-raiser for Smitley, said, “So far we have only raised $60,000 of the $100,000 we wanted to raise. Hopefully, these events will get us closer to our goals.”
The Smitley family is still accepting contributions to Josh’s transplant fund. They can be sent to The National Foundation for Transplants, with Josh Smitley Fund written on the memo line of the check, P.O. Box 123, Lanesville, IN 47136.