Local woman trying to increase awareness for organ donations

EASLEY — “I’m nervous about doing this,” Easley resident Jan Ellenburg said, “but it might make people more aware of how precious being an organ donor is for the people who need them.”
Steve Ellenburg, Jan’s husband of nearly 40 years, is in need of a full or split liver transplant. Diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in 2010, he has been on the active transplant list at Charleston’s MUSC for the last three months.
“This disease is taking his life away,” said Jan. “If we could get a transplant or a split liver, Steve could have a second chance at life.”
Steve Ellenburg’s quality of life has greatly diminished over the last few months. According to his wife, his condition continues to worsen and he continues to weaken.
During September of 2011, Steven began developing abdominal fluid (a condition associated with his cirrhosis) that has to be drained from his body. Every Friday, he has an average of 10-12 liters of fluid — approximately 26-28 pounds — removed from his abdomen.
“Steve is able to attend church services at Victory Baptist on Sundays because he’s had the fluid drained on Friday,” Jan said. “But by Wednesday, the fluid has almost completely returned, and it is uncomfortable for him to sit and get around.”
The Ellenburgs’ son-in-law offered to donate a portion of his liver for the split liver transplant; however, he did not qualify because his blood type was not compatible with Steve’s.
Experts at Sanford University Hospitals suggest that a living donor liver transplant (LDLT) is a viable solution for people waiting on transplant lists. In an LDLT, approximately half of the donor’s liver (either right lobe or left lobe) is removed by the other team and then it is transplanted into the recipient. The healthy liver will regenerate in both the donor and the recipient within six to eight weeks and to the determined size by one year.
Praying and waiting is the hard part, said Jan Ellenburg.
“It is difficult to see the one you love going downhill,” she said.
Steve knew nothing of his cirrhosis until routine medical tests for a life insurance policy revealed fluid around his liver. Despite numerous tests and a liver biopsy, doctors have never been able to determine a cause for Ellenburg’s cirrhosis.
“Steve has never had a drop of alcohol in his life,” Jan said. “It’s like people who get lung cancer even though they have never smoked a cigarette.”
The Ellenburgs continue to wait and pray as they travel back and forth to MUSC in Charleston. Jan refuses to give up hope that her husband will remain on the active transplant list and receive a liver or that someone might be willing to be part of a live donor liver transplant.
“The doctors have said if we could find someone in excellent health, 40 years old or younger, who is compatible with Steve’s O-positive blood type, we might be able to do the split liver transplant,” she said. “Of course they would have to have all sorts of tests done.”
While deciding to donate part of a liver is not something most people do on a daily basis, the Ellenburgs believe that nothing is impossible with God and prayer.
“It is a very precious thing to be an organ donor,” said Jan Ellenburg. “That people are willing to give up all or part of their organs so that someone else might have a chance at life is truly amazing.”
Anyone interested in contacting Jan Ellenburg may call her at (864) 704-6426.