Gift of life

Want to organize a parade in Grove City? Talk to volunteer Andy Furr.  Ever heard of Genetic Alpha 1 Anytripsin Defect? Andy can tell you about it.

Maybe you want to know what his gift of life entails or what the 127 liver functions are? That’s right, Andy is your man.

In 2008, after two years of severe illness, including 37 hospital visits in a three-month span, at one time on 48 pills a day and a misdiagnosis of Cirrhosis of the liver, Andy received a second chance when he received a liver transplant.

His genetic defect is rare and more research is happening but that explains the misdiagnosis. Because of that, though, he transferred between hospitals, was over medicated, had bouts of dementia, combativeness he doesn’t remember, and the genetic defect was not discovered until after his transplant.

When he landed at the Cleveland Clinic (CCF) in February 2008, his kidneys were almost shut down and he was in renal failure. February 14, three days after his 43rd birthday, he was on the organ recipient waiting list. “I was given a timeline of three weeks to start dialysis but with a one in 500 chance dialysis would help,” Andy recalled. He headed home to Grove City.

“February 21, at 11:34 p.m., the phone rang with news of a liver donor.” His life changed rapidly.

A snowstorm hit Ohio that night and Medflight could not take him to Cleveland. “They only have 14 hours to transplant a liver. We had our own plan. My sister, Teresa Furr, watched the kids, my nephew, Jim Schreck, took us to Powell to get my brother-in-law, Jim Mink (who would drive them to CCF.)”

Often “the best laid plans,” have a hitch.  Jim was sick and couldn’t be around Andy. Jim’s wife, Roxanne, drove them. “She was afraid to drive in the snow but took five hours to get there. It was an amazing ride. She was calm and did a great job.”

Andy, emotionally and physically drained, rested in the back seat. “Spiritually I was great and prepared for whatever the outcome, hoping for the best.”

February 22nd he got his new liver and woke up Sunday, February 24th to learn the surgery was successful.

These two years were painful for this construction worker, husband to Mary and father to Christopher, 16; Joshua, 17; and Rachel, 14.  His Christian faith in God and support of family and friends carried him.

Today he wonders how he had time to work. As a volunteer for LifeLine of Ohio to promote organ and tissue donation, he talks to high school students; participates in Live on Ride on his motorcycle; talks to Rotary clubs, at health fairs or whenever he has a chance to tell his story.

 “One time, a boy asked if he could see my scar and I showed him,” Andy said chuckling. When he gave a talk to operating room staff at Riverside Hospital, something unique happened.  “That was interesting because one woman, a volunteer with Lifeline whose daughter was an organ donor, was there presenting her story of donation. It was inspiring to hear the other side of what the gift of life is about.”

One thing is clear; he’s not wasting time while giving back to his community.

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