MAYWOOD, IL – Ted Sulkowski thought it was just a routine physical exam required for his insurance provider when he was hit with a diagnosis out of the blue.
“I was absolutely shocked to learn I had fatty liver disease in 1991 and that started a health journey I never thought I or my family would endure,” said the Chicago area business executive.
“Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH, is something of an epidemic in America and is called the silent liver disease because there often are no symptoms,” said Jamie Berkes, MD, hepatologist at Loyola Medicine. “Patients are able to live with the disease for a long time.”
In 2014, life took a dramatic turn for Mr. Sulkowski. “[Dr. Berkes] told me that I would need a liver transplant and my wife and I were in disbelief. I felt fine and had been living with this for more than 23 years,” remembered Mr. Sulkowski. “But he nailed it because everything that he told us would happen, happened.”
Mr. Sulkowski suffered fluid retention which led to kidney failure. And he became so sick, his wife remembered, that she felt he was slipping away.
“When the time came, he actually needed a liver and a kidney transplant,” said Dr. Berkes. “I try to be realistic with patients about the reality of when they will get the call that an organ is available for them, but you just never know.”
Months after being on the organ recipient list, Mr. Sulkowski got the phone call that changed his life. “I will never forget the day that we got the call that a liver and kidney were available for me,” he said tearfully. “That night, my wife and I lay in bed and together we prayed for the family of my organ donor.”
The Sulkowskis said Loyola doctors and nurses have become like members of their own family.
“Loyola provided medical care for me but they also healed me spiritually,” Mr. Sulkowski said. “The night of my transplant, nurses and members of the team went down to the chapel and prayed for me. My family and I felt confident that Loyola was doing everything possible to keep me alive.”
The transplantation was successful.
“Mr. Sulkowski is a great example of why we do this and why organ donation is vitally important,” Dr. Berkes said. “Without organ donations, people like Mr. Sulkowski would not be alive.”
Today, Mr. Sulkowski is back at work. He gave his daughter away in marriage. And he and his wife have fostered dozens of animal rescue puppies.
“I ask myself, 'Why did God save me?' I think the answer is to share my story, to help increase awareness of the importance of organ donation,” said Mr. Sulkowski. “I was given the greatest gift, and I want to give that gift back to others.” Watch Mr. Sulkowski's story.