Stories about: Dr. Khashavar Vakili

Police save lives every day, just not this way — a liver for Sloan

Sloan after her liver transplant pictured next to her living donor, police lieutenant Steve Tenney
Sloane and Lt. Tenney

A police officer’s job is all about action and reaction.

“We see something, react to it and, typically, it’s over quickly,” says Lt. Steve Tenney of the Keene, New Hampshire, Police Department.

But on the morning of Sept. 8, while Steve lay in a hospital bed at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts, action/reaction wasn’t part of the equation. This time, there was time to think. Even so, the decision to donate a piece of his liver to save Sloan — a baby he’d never even met — was made without hesitation.

“I did what anyone would have done,” he says.

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Two life-threatening conditions.
One remarkable wish.

Lucas, who received a 5-organ (multivisceral) transplant looks over his mom's shoulderWhen Lucas St. Onge blew out the five candles on his birthday cake, he made just one wish. He didn’t ask for ninja turtles, a T-ball set or an Xbox — the only thing he wished was to be just like any other kid.

“It was a gift I couldn’t give,” says his mom, Heather.

On that same day, last May, he got his wish.

“He got a liver, stomach, pancreas, intestine and spleen — the five organs he needed to help him become healthy and happy,” Heather says.

Heather was 18 weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Anthony, learned they were about to face a myriad of medical challenges with their unborn child. To what extent remained unclear, until the day Lucas was born.

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Sharing biliary atresia — and strength to beat it

Isabella and her sister Melissa, both have biliary atresia.Everywhere Melissa Villaseñor goes her little sister, Isabella, follows.

The 6- and 2-year-old share just about everything. They share big personalities. They share a love of being lively and loud. And, they also share something else — they were both born with biliary atresia.

“I am not going to lie,” says Andrea Torre, the girls’ mom. “I sometimes break down and cry and ask myself, ‘Why me?’”

Biliary atresia is a chronic, progressive liver condition that is fatal if left untreated. For most parents, having just one child with this rare, life-threatening disease is overwhelming.

“My husband keeps me grounded,” she says. “He reminds me, ‘See how much they fight for their health? We have to fight twice as hard.’”

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Paying it 26.2 miles forward

Tom Williams, a liver transplant recipient, crosses the Boston Marathon finish lineThere is a spot on the Boston Marathon route called “The Liver Mile.” It’s where the grind begins, where the storied course starts to tests runners and where legs often weary from pounding 16.8 miles of punishing roads.

Yet, it’s also where 21-year-old Tom Williams, a liver transplant recipient from Dracut, Massachusetts, first fell in love with the idea of running the Boston Marathon.

“I wasn’t thinking about the difficulty of it,” he says. “I was just thinking, I want to run for other people who are sick.”

Located in front of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, “The Liver Mile” is where volunteers hand out water and gather in support of the Run for Research team, which raises money to benefit the American Liver Foundation. For years, while someone else ran for him as part of the patient-partner program, Tom was a spectator on the sidelines.

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