Tom Hiriak recalls the day his son got sick, just a few short months ago.
“He turned yellow. That was the first sign,” remembers Tom, describing the initial steps in his son, Colin’s journey to find a living organ donor.
Diagnosed at only 25 years old with Cholangiocarcinoma, a rare biliary duct cancer, Colin needs a liver transplant.
He is one of more than 100,000 men, women and children in need of a transplant.
April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM), a month to celebrate those who have received transplants, to recognize those who continue to wait, to honor donors and donor families and to thank registered donors for giving hope.
“Most people get very few chances to make such a huge difference in somebody’s life,” Tom says. “Whoever does this for Colin – they’re going to save his life.”
A Surprising Diagnosis
In late January, Colin went to the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department and was admitted. He stayed at Doylestown Hospital for two days while doctors evaluated his condition, a suspected complication of ulcerative colitis, which Colin had since age 13. His UC was very well controlled, so his sudden illness came as a shock to his family. The doctors couldn’t rule out cancer. They recommended he seek specialized treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Colin spent almost the entire month of February in the hospital before returning to his parent’s home in Solebury.
Colin will soon begin a course of treatment of radiation and chemotherapy to contain the cancer to his liver and bile duct. His only hope for a cure is a liver transplant. The best option recommended by his care team is for a living donor to donate a portion of their liver to Colin. The liver would regrow in Colin’s body and regenerate in the donor’s body.
“Because of this disease state, it’s incredibly important for us to find a donor,” says Tom.
He describes Colin, a software engineer, as quiet, someone who loves sports and “one of the nicest most caring people – he’s just a great young man.”
What Donation Means
During National Donate Life Month , Pennsylvania’s hospital community encourages everyone to learn about the critical need for organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation.
People of all ages and medical histories can consider themselves potential “deceased” donors. “Living” donors should be in good overall physical and mental health and older than 18 years of age. Transplant programs complete a full patient evaluation to protect both living donor and recipient health and safety.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 17 people die each day waiting for a transplant.
A few people have stepped forward to be potential donors for Colin. Potential donors are tested one at a time, so the “more people in reserve, the better off we are,” says Tom.
Tom wants to “build up the bench” for a larger pool of potential donors who could be a match. He says his son has always been “an unbelievable fighter” who is facing this challenge with all his might. Tom says he and his wife, Michelle, a teacher with Central Bucks Schools, and their other son and daughter are all fighting for Colin, and the family has received “amazing support from the community.”
“Whoever does this for Colin will know the rest of their life, they’ve saved his life,” says Tom.
In addition to celebrating National Donate Life Month, Doylestown Health continues to participate in the HAP Donate Life Pennsylvania Hospital Challenge, which encourages Pennsylvania hospitals to increase organ donation awareness and designations within their hospital and community. The challenge, taking place this month, is sponsored by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP).
For more information about organ, eye, tissue and living donation, please visit DonateLife.net.
To register your decision to be a donor, please visit RegisterMe.org.
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 271 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.