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Living Liver Donor Now Training At UCHealth To Become Transplant Surgeon

By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - A young doctor has moved to Colorado from the East Coast to train to become an organ transplant surgeon. Dr. Hillary Yaffe is already very familiar with the process.

(credit: Yaffe family)

In 2008, she donated about half of her liver to her father, Alan Yaffe. Now, she is giving back to the transplant community that saved him.

"He was the, sort of, sillier parent," Hillary told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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Alan and Hillary Yaffe (credit: CBS)

She said Alan made life fun for his family. His daughter adores him.

"This guy's pretty fantastic," said Hillary.

To Alan, Hillary is extraordinary. His oldest child saved his life.

"Three words, 'Let's do it,' that's what she said," he explained choking back tears.

In 2004, Alan was diagnosed with a chronic disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). He would die without a liver transplant. Hillary, studying to be a doctor, never hesitated to be her father's living donor.

"There didn't seem to be any impediment. I have something that I don't need that he needs," she said.

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Drs. Elizabeth Pomfret and James Pomposelli (credit: CBS)

In 2008, surgery was at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts, done by Drs. Elizabeth Pomfret and James Pomposelli, a wife and husband transplant team.

Hillary's gift saved her father's life.

"It's just, I got to keep my dad," she said.

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(credit: Yaffe family)

At Hillary's wedding two years later, Alan picked a special song for their father-daughter dance.

"I had them do 'I've Got You Under My Skin', said an emotional Alan. "So many people remember that still to this day."

Hillary now has a husband and twins and they have all moved to Colorado.

"I'm supposed to be a transplant surgeon," she explained.

She was determined to come to Colorado so she could train with her former doctors, Pomfret and Pomposelli, who are now working at UCHealth University of Colorado Transplant Center in Aurora.

Pomfret and Pomposelli are the two most experienced living donor transplant surgeons in the United States.

"Dr. Pomfret's training me to transplant and that means the world to me," said Hillary.

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(credit: CBS)

"Very honored, very humbling," said Dr. Pomfret, Chief of Transplant Surgery at UCHealth.

Hillary is in a two-year fellowship program at UCHealth. Her doctor/teachers say she will be a unique transplant surgeon, able to help patients understand a living transplant from both the doctor and patient perspective.

They believe Dr. Hillary Yaffe will become a national and international leader.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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