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UPMC Celebrates Milestone For Living Donor Program

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Doctors in Pittsburgh have been pioneering medical advancements for years.

The first liver transplant in Pittsburgh happened in 1981.

"Pittsburgh is often regarded as the birthplace of liver transplantation, thanks to Thomas E. Starzel," said Dr. Abhi Humar, the chief of the transplant department at UPMC.

Since then, the outlook for people living with liver failure has been getting better every year.

"In Western Pa., we are the only program that does live donor liver transplants," Dr. Humar said.

On Thursday, doctors at UPMC marked an important milestone. They've now performed more transplants from living donors than deceased.

"The main problem with liver transplantation is that there just aren't enough livers for all of the people that need them," Dr. Humar said.

The living donor liver transplant program in Pittsburgh is the largest in the country, and their goal is to end needless deaths from people waiting on the liver transplant list.

"We can transplant these individuals before they become critically ill, before they are literally at deaths door," said Dr. Humar.

Doctors want people to stop waiting, and start being proactive, asking family and friends to get tested to see if they are a match. They want living donation to be the first option for patients.

Patients like Frank Drew, who found out in 2005 he had liver disease.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"My doctors had been telling me all along, try to get a liver donor, try to get a liver donor," Drew said.

Drew knew his health was failing, but was hesitant to ask his family to donate. His daughter also saw his struggle and stepped up.

"She donate part of her liver and saved my life," Drew said.

Healthy people only need about 25 percent of their liver, and the liver is the only organ that will regenerate to full size in about eight weeks.

"I show people my scar, it's my badge of honor," said Drew's daughter, Erica Bednarowicz. "I think that's what we need is education. I think a lot more people will come forward and do what needs to be done."

Donors don't have to be family members. Anyone can get tested and be registered to donate a liver.

"Don't be afraid to donate, you will save somebody's life," Drew said.

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