Liver Transplant Transplant Services

A new chance at life inspired Dung Lu to become a transplant mentor

Few people might believe Dung Lu’s story. First, a doctor told him that his liver was so diseased he should go home and put his affairs in order. Then a lucky chance sent him and his wife, Kim, to Stanford Hospital — for a definitely different opinion. When physicians there looked at Lu, what they saw was a man so sick, his name went right to the top of the transplant waiting list. In less than a week, he received a new liver.

Today, Lu and Kim lead a Vietnamese Support Group designed to help a community that knows little about transplant and finds essential support from the group. “God has opened my eyes so that I can see to the needs of helping others as I have learned from the caring transplant team at Stanford,” Lu said. “They are like angels.”

Lu’s liver disease was caused by hepatitis B, a virus that can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. His illness was a classic case of how the virus progresses slowly over time. Twenty years ago, Lu found out he had hepatitis B, but the effect on his life was minimal. By 2007, however, Lu was working a full-time job and going to school. His days were very long and he was exhausted, sometimes getting by on two to three hours of sleep a day.

Finally, one of his instructors thought Lu appeared so ill he suggested Lu go see a doctor. That physician was the one who told him he had no chance of survival. Lu called Kim at the salon where she works and she broke into tears. A customer saw how upset she was. When Kim explained what he had just told her, the customer implored, “Get him to Stanford right away.”

Lu was so sick that he doesn’t remember a lot in the hours that followed, but his Stanford physicians had good news for him. Yes, he needed a transplant; however his name was now at the top of the list to receive one. “It’s like I won the Mega Millions Lottery at the highest care hospital in the world,” he said. “Over 7,000 people were on the waiting list when I had my transplant. I was very fortunate.”

Lu and Kim were overjoyed with the possibility of a future together, but they had no idea what a transplant would be like or how their lives would change. Stanford’s transplant team includes social workers who began the in-depth education process for them.

Now two and a half years after his transplant, Lu volunteers with the American Liver Foundation and with California Transplant Donor Network as a Donate Life Ambassador, spreading awareness about organ donation to the Vietnamese community.

He and Kim also co-founded, with three other Vietnamese transplant patients, the Vietnamese Transplant Support Group. The couple shares their experiences and they wait with families in the hospital. They know first-hand how scary and lonely it can be to go through a transplant. Their group has now helped more than 60 patients and their families. “We call and share the joy when someone gets approved for transplant,” Lu said. “Then we help coordinate support for the patient and their family.”

Lu will always be grateful for his new liver and for the care he received at Stanford. He said, “I appreciate life more and see that people truly care.”

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