The surgery to transplant more than half of Rich Beecher's liver into his ailing uncle was deemed "a complete success" yesterday by Dr. Lewis Teperman, director of transplantation at New York University Medical Center.
It drew a thumbs-up seal of approval from both Beecher, the donor, and his uncle, Don Beecher, the recipient.
"Both of them gave me the thumbs-up sign [after Tuesday's surgery]," said Richard Beecher Sr., father of the donor and Don's brother.
"It's fantastic everybody came out of it OK. They were concerned about the cancer spreading."
When Don Beecher, 46, of Parish, N.Y., came down with an unrelated chest cold he couldn't shake last summer, and after myriad tests, doctors ultimately discovered a cancerous tumor on his liver.
His 20-year-old nephew, a sophomore at Towson University, volunteered to be the donor, which necessitated withdrawing from school and giving up his hard-earned position on the lacrosse team.
Before removing half of Rich Beecher's liver, however, doctors had to be certain that Don Beecher's cancer hadn't spread. Upon operating, Richard Beecher said, the surgeons found an enlarged lymph node. It was biopsied, found to be cancer-free, and the transplant proceeded.
Had Rich Beecher not been a perfect match, Don Beecher would have had approximately a two-year wait for a cadaver liver, but could have been expected to live only a year without any treatment.
"It was a perfect fit and it's working in his uncle right now," Teperman said of Beecher's transplanted liver. "We found no other cancer in his uncle.
"Richard is doing outstanding. We removed the breathing tube from him [yesterday] morning and he's talking up a storm, asking about his uncle and lacrosse. His uncle is awake and conscious, but he still has a breathing tube. Everything went well and prognosis for recovery for both of them is excellent at this point."
Rich Beecher could be out of the intensive-care unit as early as today, and out of the hospital by early next week. Don Beecher will likely remain in the hospital for at least a week.
Cards may be sent to New York University Medical Center, Tisch Building, 560 1st Ave., West 14th floor, New York, N.Y., 10016.