Liver Transplant Transplant Services

Three-time liver transplant recipient George Plaut rebuilt his inner strength one day at a time

Cart Hartmann with his sons

Even after receiving three liver transplants, George Plaut is in the best shape of his life. Each day, he gets up before sunrise and hits his home gym, determined to maintain his newfound wellness. "Exercise has helped me immensely and made me mentally strong," he said. But his road to recovery was anything but easy.

Years of liver damage caused by hepatitis C and three subsequent transplant surgeries devastated Plaut’s body. He lost 100 pounds, could hardly walk, and his abdominal muscles were weak. When he started working out with a personal trainer*, exercise brought tears to his eyes. "I felt like I couldn't do it, but I'd do it anyway," he said. He also kept his physical limitations in mind. "There's always tomorrow to do this exercise if I'm not up to it today."

Plaut first learned he had hepatitis when he was released from the Army in the 1970s. “I was young and healthy when diagnosed. I didn’t know what the signs or ramifications were or know that I needed to protect my liver from this virus,” he said. He was a marathon runner and led an active lifestyle. It took nearly 25 years for any symptoms to develop. By the time Plaut saw his doctor for fatigue and ankle swelling, his blood work indicated serious liver trouble.

Before follow-up tests were complete, Plaut suffered a massive esophageal bleed and was taken to a nearby hospital. The doctor he saw referred him immediately to Stanford where he was evaluated for liver transplant and placed on the waiting list. “My MELD score was as high as it could get,” Plaut said. “We were in the right place at the right time when I arrived at Stanford.”

Plaut and his wife, Kathy, were newlyweds married less than a year when their lives changed dramatically. They had no idea that within the span of two short years, Plaut would undergo multiple banding procedures to control esophageal bleeding and three difficult liver transplants. He gave up his 30-year career in the semiconductor industry to focus on getting well. Kathy learned how to balance her career while becoming his primary caregiver.

It was a rough few years for them. Plaut lost his first transplant due to a reoccurrence of hepatitis C, which Stanford successfully treated. He lost his second transplant to rejection and cytomegalovirus (CMV), a virus that can harm people with a weakened immune system. Then he ran into bile duct failure with his third transplant and had to be opened up again. He later battled toxic shock syndrome caused by an infection from a broken arm after slipping at home. “Most of the things that happened to me would kill a normal person,” he said. “I must be here for a reason.”

Cart Hartmann with his sons
At every turn, Kathy was an advocate in her husband’s care, asking lots of questions and making sure they both understood what the transplant team told them. “It takes a village to go through the process and you need to get the right information,” she said. “Not a day goes by that we aren’t thankful. Everyone on the team took such good care of George.”

Looking at Plaut today, it’s hard to believe he was so ill eight years ago. He now sports close to six-pack abs, personalized with the signature liver transplant scar down the middle. "Strength comes from the core," he said, pointing to his middle. “If you’re fit and strong, you can handle things better.” After transplant, he focused on building inner strength with his back muscles and then he channeled that strength to his core muscles.

Plaut is now hepatitis-free and uses his experience to support and encourage friends who are struggling with chronic illness or recovering from an injury. He motivates them to rebuild their physical strength when they are able and provides them with free personal training. He calls it his “give-back program.”

“I get up every day with a purpose,” he said, smiling at Kathy. “Something like this changes your perspective on life. You embrace it.”

 

*Talk to your transplant team before starting an exercise program.

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