PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A typical Father’s Day for Thomas Willoughby and his dad Mark consists of exchanging cards, but this Father’s Day will be a little bit different.
“He saved my life,” Mark says.
Mark, from Butler County, was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis in 1994.
During a routine visit with his doctor last December, Mark found out he had stage two liver cancer.
So his doctor told him he needed to consider getting a transplant.
That’s where Dr. Christopher Hughes came in.
“Although his liver was very sick, he needed his liver out urgently because of the cancer that was there,” Hughes, a surgical director of liver transplantation at UPMC, says.
“We needed to get the liver out before the cancer spread to the rest of his body.”
So Thomas wanted to do something.
He got his liver tested and found out he was a match.
“My thought process was I feel his life would be a lot better if I helped him,” says Thomas.
“Kids don’t think about their parents dying until they have to.”
He told his dad the plan, but his dad was a little hesitant about it.
“I’m gonna be 65. I’ve lived most of my life,” Mark says.
“I worried that something would happen to him, even down the road.”
But after dotting all the i’s and crossing the t’s, the duo decided it was the best option.
“Everybody wants to live,” Mark says.
Through UPMC’s living donor program, Thomas and Mark went through with their surgeries at UPMC Montefiore on April 30.
“We met in the parking garage and went in together,” Mark says.
“They did pre-operational stuff on us together in the same room.”
Then they went their separate ways and recovered on the same floor only a few rooms apart.
“It was nice knowing he was just down the hall and he could walk down and visit with each other,” says Mark.
Six weeks later, they’re doing great and looking ahead to this coming father’s day through a different set of eyes.
“I want to say this father’s day will be special. I think every one after this will be special too,” says Thomas.
“It’s gonna mean I can see more of the things my grandchildren do down the road and see more of the things he does, him and his wife,” says Mark.
“It gives us a special bond. Now I got some of him inside me now.”