Avera Medical Minute: Liver Transplant Saves Yankton Woman

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Life was hanging in the balance for Karmen Brockmueller-Broer.

Liver Transplant saves Yankton woman

Discovering that her liver was failing, began with a health crisis. "I ended up having a seizure, and ended up in the Yankton ER, I was taken to Sioux Falls, low in sodium, low in potassium, and then discovered that my liver was having problems," Brockmueller-Broer.

More tests revealed her liver was not functioning normally. Medications were not helping.

"My numbers just went up so fast and really there was nothing else. It was coming down to transplant time. It took a solid month, month and a half, to find a donor and a viable donor. We tried a couple of times that didn't work out, and then the third one was the charm," said Brockmueller-Broer.

With her new liver, anti-rejection medications are a part of Karmen's daily routine. Blood test results provide direction to the type and amount prescribed. Karmen says she's feeling one hundred percent better.

Dr. Jeffery Steers, Avera Director of Transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon says the cause of liver failure can come from many sources. For Karmen, it was a complication from surgery.

"It was unique in the sense that she had a previous stomach operation," said Dr. Steers. "Those patients have a very high incidence of Steatohepatitis, a type of fatty liver disease and that leads to liver failure in a fair number of patients."

The new accreditation at the Avera transplant center by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services means more Medicare patients can receive a liver transplant here in South Dakota.

"Patients who often have medicare find it difficult to make it to other transplant programs far away. Buying gas and traveling and spending sometimes weeks or months in hospital or hotel rooms can be very economically taxing," said Dr. Steers.

For qualifying patients, another major hurdle is now cleared.

"Those who were stable and didn't want to immediately go to another program, we've been following them in the liver disease clinic, and obviously, those people who are ready to be transplanted can be activated. We have patients who are excited about our approval just as excited as we are," said Dr. Steers.

About 50 people in this area are waiting for a new liver, right now. The next hurdle is finding a liver.

"Those patients may wait a couple of years because they're pretty healthy and they're more likely to get a liver transplant unfortunately when they get sicker," said Dr. Steers.

"The most important thing for our patients and any patient needing an organ transplant is organ donors," said Dr. Steers.

One life saved is Karmen's.

"It's a miracle. I mean it really is. Lots of prayers and everything went into finding a liver," said Brockmueller-Broer.

Now she can plan for a future with those she loves, including watching her six-year-old daughter grow up.

"Seeing her graduate high school; I didn't know if that would be possible. Seeing her get married someday. Just everything that life can hold now. I'm so thankful and life is precious," said Brockmueller-Broer.