Kevin House’s liver can process toxins at twice the rate of a normal person’s.
“My liver function is through the roof. What a lame superpower.”
The 23-year-old electrician apprentice is about to donate half of his liver to save the life of his good friend’s father.
He was quietly going about his do-gooding when his friends at Carlson Gracie Mixed Martial Arts in Maple Ridge found out about it.
Brendon Leong, owner of the business, was booking House into a kick boxing match. But House had to back out. Surgeons warned him they didn’t want him to break ribs before the transplant surgery. His liver needs to be in the best shape possible to give the recipient the best possible chance at a successful transplant.
Now the Carlson Gracie people want to return his generosity by helping to cover House’s bills during a three-month recovery period.
“He’s the most humble and kind person you’ll ever meet,” said Leong. “Most of us would think twice, and he didn’t.
“He’s a hero in our books.”
House and Ryan Fier have been friends since high school.
“They’ve always been great to me,” House said of the Fier family.
He knew Ryan’s father Eric has had ongoing health problems, but about two years ago he realized how deadly serious the situation was getting. House and Eric Fier share the same blood type. Once doctors determined House could be a donor, he had little hesitation.
He knew what the family was going through – House’s own mother had been hospitalized with a brain tumor, but has since recovered.
“It was really terrifying. When I found out that I could help, there was no hesitation. If I can, I’ll take that horrible feeling away for them.”
The liver filters and processes blood as it circulates through the body, detoxifying harmful substances and performing many other vital functions.
Halved livers grow back. Not completely, but House can expect his liver to return to 90 per cent of its original size. It won’t reach 100 per cent, because the neighbouring organs crowd out the regrowing liver.
“They stretch out into the space where it was,” is how he puts it.
“But I’m hoping to regain full function.”
He admits he’s not always completely relaxed with the prospect of the coming surgery.
“Things can go wrong. It’s nerve wracking.”
The surgery will take place in Edmonton near the end of July.
He’s giving Eric Fier the healthiest possible liver – no drinking in July, and he’s continuing his normal healthy lifestyle.
The Mission resident said joining the local fight gym almost three years ago has been life-changing for him. There’s an obvious incentive to get into great shape, he said.
“You get tired of having the crap beaten out of you,” House added.
“It’s kind of turned my life around. It’s fun, and it takes a lot of focus. It’s something you can spend your energy on in a positive way.”
He even hopes to get back in the ring in the new year.
Eric Fier, 55, has been battling auto immune diseases his entire life, and liver failure is the latest in a series of health problems.
“It’s fatigue and it’s itchy and it’s a roller coaster – some days I feel pretty good.”
The itchiness is caused by his body trying to process toxins that the liver would normally handle through his skin. His colour is often a jaundiced yellow.
He has been listed for 18 months for a donor, but is actually too healthy to be at the front of the line for a cadaver liver.
“Basically I have to be really sick, and be in the hospital, and be in intensive to really get on the radar for a cadaver liver.”
He takes about 15 pills a day and has three stints in his abdomen that must be switched every three months.
“You’re at risk of getting cancer while you’re battling this, so a new liver gives you a new lease on life.”
“If he doesn’t get it, he will die, that’s all that matters,” said wife, Kim. “And with it he can live a normal life span.”
None of his children are married, yet.
“None have given me grandkids, so I’ve got all that to look forward to.”
There’s no way to overstate the gift that House is giving him.
“He’s a hero. The donator is obviously a hero.”
After the transplant, House will be off work for about three months. He expects to heal quickly and get up and about, but the job demands a lot of heavy lifting, and the risk of hernia is too great for him to return early.
He won’t be able to lift anything over 10 pounds. He won’t be allowed many pain medications, and for 12 weeks he won’t be able to have a beer.
So his friends are doing a fundraiser to help out with his rent and other bills while the young man is off work. Under organ donation rules, recipients are not allowed to offer any financial assistant to donors, no matter how much they may want to help.
The fight club is hosting a beer and burger event at The Haney on July 22. It has more than $4,000 in prizes to auction.
“The David Bowie tribute band is going to be there, so it’s going to be pretty cool. It’s going to be a fun night for a good cause,” said Leong.
• As well, a gofundme page has been set up for House.