Liver Transplant Transplant Services

Against all odds, Carl Hartmann was determined to get a transplant

Cart Hartmann with his sons

Two transplant centers had already turned Carl Hartmann down for a liver transplant before he came
to Stanford Hospital. He had three cancerous lesions on his liver, which, untreated, made him ineligible for transplant. Yet he needed one to survive.

Instead of turning him down, Stanford said yes. First, they would treat the liver cancer lesions with chemoembolization and radiofrequency ablation procedures. Then the transplant process could begin.

"Stanford wasn't afraid to treat me," Hartmann said. "They were quite sure that with these treatments they could take care of it. They absolutely saved my life."

Decades earlier, his liver had been infected by hepatitis C, a viral disease that leads to inflammation of the liver. Like many people with hepatitis C, Hartmann lived much of his life without any serious health concerns. Beneath the surface, however, the virus had been attacking his liver for years and increasing the likelihood he would develop cancer.

Then about ten years ago, Hartmann's wife, Cheryl, insisted he get a physical exam. During a routine test, his doctor found hepatitis C in his blood and referred him to a hepatologist. The hepatologist suggested interferon treatment, but Hartmann had just started his own business and could not afford time off to manage the difficult side effects of the treatment. He decided to wait, but kept in close contact with his doctor and had his blood tested regularly.

Years later, elevated liver enzymes appeared in his blood work and an ultrasound and CT scan showed something abnormal on his liver. His doctor referred him to another specialist who diagnosed cancer lesions and cirrhosis. Carl and Cheryl were in shock. They couldn't believe this was happening to their family.

"This is something that happens to other people," he said. "I kept thinking they're going to find out it was a mistake." Additional testing confirmed the diagnosis and he learned that transplant might be an option.

However, the size of the cancer lesions was concerning--he would not meet the criteria for transplant unless they could be downsized. His doctor said, "Don't give up hope. I know someone at Stanford who can help."

Hartmann traveled across two states to Stanford, where he was evaluated for transplant and began cancer therapy. For the next two years, he made frequent trips to Stanford. A year into treatment, he returned home one evening to devastating news. His wife had been admitted unexpectedly to the critical care unit of their local hospital with breathing problems. Sadly, she passed away that night from a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in her lungs.

Their two sons, Aron and Jerrad, became co-caregivers for Hartmann as he continued his cancer treatment and started ribavirin/interferon medication therapy for the hepatitis C. By the following year, the cancer lesions were under control and the hepatitis C virus was undetectable. His body was ready to undergo a transplant. Unfortunately, his finances were not.

He had to secure adequate primary and secondary health insurance and make sure he could cover co-pays and deductibles. Around the same time, a state law was enacted that provided coverage for transplant patients who had been turned down by other carriers, including Hartmann. He finally had the coverage he needed.

Carl Hartmann

After two months on the waiting list, he received a new liver. Hartmann's transplant went remarkably well. He was in and out of surgery within five hours, walking the halls on the following day, and discharged five days later. Dr. Waldo Concepcion, his transplant surgeon, said he was the "poster boy for liver transplant."

For the first month of Hartman's recovery, his sons tag-teamed his care at an apartment close to the hospital, which Jenny Kwak, his social worker, helped arrange. Soon after, he was back at work part-time and making plans for the future--something he hadn't been able to do for years.

Now when Hartmann isn't camping with his sons or growing his business, he relaxes by taking his Harley for a ride. "I call it ‘Dr. Black, the psychiatrist.' When you're riding, it's just you and the bike, you forget everything else for a while and just enjoy the moment."

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