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Spring 1998
To Save Two Lives
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On the other hand, Andrew wasn’t gaining weight, he wasn’t growing. He was still fragile and could have a relapse of peritonitis at any time. “We were faced with the decision to wait until he got sicker or to go ahead and do the transplant while he was relatively healthy,” says Jadonne. “All the doctors felt we should go ahead. Dr. McDiarmid said it would be better for Andrew. The hardest part was trying to imagine what it would be like for Andrew. I asked Paul, ‘Is it right to do this to him? He said, ‘Of course. This is his chance to live.’ ”

On December 8, Andrew’s name went on the national waiting list for a liver. “We couldn’t make plans to do anything,” recalls Jadonne. “Every time the phone rang, I thought to myself, ‘This is it.’ ”

Nationwide, nearly a quarter of children under age 2 die while waiting for a suitable donor organ. In some areas of the country, the wait for babies under a year can stretch to 290 days. At UCLA, the average wait for babies is 23 days; for children ages 1 to 5, 27 days. All because of the split-liver program. “The children don’t wait as long, so they’re not as sick when they have the transplant,” says McDiarmid. “It’s a huge advantage. There’s almost no mortality.”

On January 8, Ladonne had just gotten up and was getting her two older children ready for school when the phone rang. It was Beverly, one of the nurse transplant coordinators at UCLA. Jadonne quickly called Paul, who was already at work. “He had just started an important meeting, so I beeped him,” she remembers. “I said, ‘We’ve gotta go. They’ve got the donor.’ ”

At the age of 61, Angel Hernandez’ greatest pride was his close-knit family. Next came his work. For 27 years, the father of four was employed as a laborer and machine operator at Mayer Drums, a manufacturer of large metal barrels, in downtown Los Angeles. The work was hard and dangerous; Hernandez was constantly exposed to toxic paints and fumes. But he did not complain. Whether it was scrubbing the floors of the factory or planting seeds in his well-tended yard, every job, he felt, had dignity. When Mayer Drums closed in 1985, Hernandez took a janitorial job at a poultry slaughterhouse downtown.

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