National Leaders in Liver Transplant, Interview with Cathy and William Chapman, MD, FACS

Author: Barnes-Jewish Hospital

My name is Cathy Dunnagan and on July 30th 2008, I was just like the rest of America, just perfectly normal, healthy life, except I was itchy and on July 31st, 2008, my whole world turned upside down. We live out in the country. I would just go out and itch against our brick house.

I wore the bristles off my hairbrush and I only went to the doctor because I had so many sores from itching so I went and my doctor did some blood work, realized my liver enzymes were high, scheduled some other tests -- which is so out of character for me to follow through with anything. By the grace of god I was diagnosed over at Barnes West County with a very rare cancer -- cholangiocarcinoma and my only hope to live was Dr. Chapman's clinical trial for liver transplant. Catherine had cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer. It's a rare condition. There are about 3,000 people in the US that have this every year. We suggested the idea of transplantation to her, which she was very interested in considering. She would have considered anything to cure this.

Basically, the only two places in the world that had this clinical trial was Barnes-Jewish Hospital or the Mayo Clinic and my first little miracle is Barnes-Jewish is 25 minutes from my front door. She was a young woman. She was in her 40s. She had a daughter who, I think at the time, was in college and she really felt like she had been given a death sentence. I remember asking Dr. Chapman -- how long do I have if I don't get a liver? And, he said six to eight months and that was my ah ha moment, that was. I just asked him then -- will I see my daughter graduate? She's in college. Will I see her get married? He was like -- yes.

Catherine completed her chemotherapy, completed her radiation. She had a limited surgery. We looked to be sure that this cancer hadn't spread and there was no evidence of that. She waited on the waiting list about six months, came up for a transplant. I had my first transplant on May 24th and I stayed for eleven days which was a little bit long and then by the fourth of July, I woke up vomiting blood. She developed some bleeding which required her to come back and that was kind of a tip off that there was a problem. We actually had to remove her liver. Jeff was there by himself in the room and he said that he could just tell with Dr.

National Leaders in Liver Transplant, Interview with Cathy and William Chapman, MD, FACS

Chapman came out that things were really bad and Dr. Chapman told him that I have twenty four hours to find her a liver. And he said Cathy, I knew we would.

I didn't even feel like things were going to get any worse. I knew we'd find you a liver -- and he did. She had a re-transplant and since then, she's done great -- really, no major problems since then. I think Catherine's prognosis is excellent. The further she goes out from the transplant, the less the risk of cancer recurrence. For cholangiocarcinoma, we have patients that come from all over the United States. I think we're somewhat uniquely positioned to do this because of our great support here, especially with our medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, our cancer center, our focus on liver cancer, inpatients that require transplantation.

We take an aggressive approach for treating, especially our cancer patients, but our other patients that have liver failure. We take on cases that aren't considered at other centers and we've been recognized for that. I never knew that I was sick or I was dying until I was better.

I had no clue because I was so well taken care of. I've never ever received such great care or seen such great care. I do have this wonderful picture I gave Dr. Chapman. We call it "the moment." Thei is the moment Dr.

Chapman promised me. This is when Caitlyn graduated from college. He told me I would see it and he was right. I mean, he is our hero.

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