If you could save someone’s life, would you? That question was burning in the hearts of Julia Harlin’s children. Their mother was suffering from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and was at risk of dying without a liver transplant. Julia did not want her children to become living donors, but the kids had other ideas. Eileen Harlin and two of her siblings made the decision to have testing as possible matches without telling their mom. Testing was the first step in this story of how a daughter saves her mom’s life.
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Eileen got the call that she was a match right before Mother’s Day. Deciding that Mother’s Day was the best time to tell her parents, Eileen began the conversation, “Hey, don’t get mad. For the past few months, I’ve been getting tested to see if I’m a match. And I am, and I want to do it.” The news was met with tears all around. Happy tears. How can you be mad when your daughter just said she was going to save her mom’s life?
Daughter Saves Mom With Two Surgeries Within 16 Months
The transplant surgery went great on August 16, 2022, at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Unfortunately, Julia received additional bad news shortly after getting her new lease on life. She was experiencing kidney failure due to hepatorenal syndrome. The kidney damage was a result of liver disease, so even though the liver was mending, the kidneys had too much damage to recover.
Without a second thought, Eileen went in for testing to see if she was a match for a kidney transplant. She was, and the successful transplant was completed on December 19, 2023. The procedure was accomplished at the same facility, the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Double Live-Donor Transplants Are Extremely Rare
This was the first time using the same live donor for two transplant surgeries on the same recipient at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Daniel G. Maluf, M.D., is the director of the medical center’s transplant program. He was the surgeon for both of Julia’s procedures. When speaking with Good Morning America, Dr. Maluf said that Eileen is the 14th person to donate part of her liver and a kidney to another person.
Following the second surgery, he said, “The mom’s kidney function recovered immediately. And both of them were home after two or three days post transplant.” When speaking about the mother-daughter duo, the doctor had nothing but praise, telling GMA, “Julia is a wonderful patient, very appreciative. And obviously the hero of the story is Eileen, who came forward twice to help [her] mother.”
Eillen praised the entire staff at the medical center. She added encouragement for anyone considering being a live donor to do it. “You don’t even have to know the person … and it can be anonymous,” she said. “You don’t do it for anything, [except] the fact that you can save someone’s life.”
Consider Organ Donation To Save A Life
Whether you are a live donor or check the organ donation box when you renew your driver’s license, you will make a difference. One of my very close personal friends is a heart transplant recipient. He meets with his donor’s family regularly and has developed a great relationship with them. He uses every opportunity to let that family know how much he appreciates the sacrifice they made. They made the decision to donate their son’s organs when he passed, and that selfless act saved many people.
If you enjoyed reading about today’s hero, please share her story and her plea for organ donations.
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