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Md. House Speaker Talks About Brush With Death, 'Living Donor' Liver Transplant

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- For 30 years, Mike Busch has been a powerful presence in Maryland's House of Delegates, fighting for education and healthcare.

But last winter, people started noticing that something was very wrong with the man who was larger than life. His liver was failing and he needed a transplant to live.

"I have never lived a 9 to 5 lifestyle and I have never been sick, never a real illness... and all of a sudden you are stopped in your tracks, and you try to power through," he told WJZ's Vic Carter.

Busch, who was suffering from the non-alcoholic form of liver disease, needed a transplant immediately. But with a long list of people waiting, the fastest way to get one was from a living donor.

VIC CARTER: "When did you make the decision to go to your family and say 'I need help?'"

BUSCH: "I called my sisters when I got home and I said, 'Hey, I gotta meet with you.'"

VIC CARTER: When your sisters sat around that table and looked at their brother and said 'I will do this,' describe that feeling."

BUSCH: "It was very emotional - it's a big sacrifice - have to go in the hospital-- anything can happen... none of them hesitated."

Busch's sister Laurie ended up being the best match.

"The living donor liver transplant allowed him to avoid that most serious life-threatening period of illness," says Dr. Rolf Barth, an associate professor of surgery and the head of the division of transplantation at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Living donor transplants were once rare, but this year the University of Maryland Medical Center performed 170 operations like the one with Busch and his sister.

Dr. Barth tells tells WJZ these transplants are excellent options for many patients.

"Someone donates half or actually maybe two-thirds of their liver," Dr. Barth says. "What happens is that that liver grows back in both people."

Now Busch wants everyone to know how living donor transplants can save lives. And thanks to his sister, he's not taking his for granted.

VIC CARTER: "Let's be real, she saved your life."

BUSCH: ""She did - it would have been a struggle - no doubt, but she saved my life...I think about it every day when I go home and go to bed...and the idea that-- get up with a positive attitude in the morning and make sure that you make her sacrifice worthwhile."

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