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Liver transplant recipient inspires others to become organ donors

PHOENIX (April 27, 2022) – As a Phoenix man waited for a life-saving liver transplant, he inspired more than a dozen friends and family members to become organ donors.

“Even if you touch one person and have them become a donor, you are saving another person,” says Ken Haney, 67. “It’s a very selfless act.”

April is National Donate Life Month. According to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), 106,180 men, women and children are on the national transplant list, and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. 

In 2021, HRSA reported, there were 11,891 people awaiting liver transplants in the U.S., and 9,236 transplants were performed.

That includes the successful procedure performed on Haney in February 2021 by the liver transplant team at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Haney had been hospitalized for cirrhosis of the liver, and as his condition worsened, there were fears that he would die if a donor match could not be found. 

At first, Haney rejected the idea of a transplant. “Why should an old guy like me take a liver when a young person might be able to benefit and live a longer life?” he says. “Maybe I was being selfish. But you never know what God’s plan is.”

After Pat Haney persuaded her husband in October to change his mind, the couple waited months until a liver match became available. When it did, Pat received a call while driving to St. Joseph’s, where she works in the hospital’s research administration office. The following morning, Ken underwent the transplant operation.

During Haney’s hospitalization, Pat created a Facebook group to keep friends and family informed of his progress. She believes that 15-20 people signed up to be organ donors as a result.

“They didn’t realize the effect of him having to go through all this, and what I went through, and they told me, ‘You know what, I’m going to sign my donor card,’” says Pat, who had already signed up to donate.

“I just want to thank the donor family, because it was a very selfless act to sign up to give a precious organ to somebody else who was in need – and Ken definitely needed it,” Pat says. 

Haney became the 100th liver transplant recipient at St. Joseph’s Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation. Established in 2015, the program is part of a multi-organ transplant center – kidney, liver, lung – and is known for clinical excellence and personalized patient care. With certification from the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and the Liver Transplant Program at St. Joseph’s has achieved excellent patient outcomes.

“I am delighted that Ken is doing well and that his experience has motivated others to become organ donors,” says Justin Reynolds, MD, medical director of liver transplant at St. Joseph’s. “I encourage everyone to consider registering as organ donors – it is an opportunity to give the gift of life and health to others. Donors can save up to eight lives and help heal more than 75 other people. Your registration serves as a symbol of hope to patients on the wait list.”

Now retired after logging more than 800,000 miles as a truck driver, Haney says he is making the most of his unexpected gift by spending more time with his eight grandchildren and a great grandson. 

The Haneys are grateful to the family of the donor, whose identity they do not know.

“He wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that person,” Pat says. “They signed up for this gift and provided our family with this incredible blessing.”


Publish date: 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022