From their laid back personalities and interest in mechanics to their allergies and low blood pressures, the father/daughter duo parallels each other.
Karen, 46, remembers watching her dad’s health decline. Thurman, 73, suffered from gastrointestinal issues for 20 years, and he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer that forms in the liver’s bile ducts, on December 1, 2004.
“The doctor told me to go enjoy what life I had left. He said I probably had one year to live,” Thurman said.
Thurman was in desperate need of a liver transplant. His skin was jaundiced, and he was extremely weak. He retired from Culligan, a water treatment and delivery company, where he served as a repair technician. His life became hospital trip after hospital trip.
“There were times when I was discharged in the morning, and before noon, I’d be back in the hospital,” Thurman said.
In March 2005, Karen tested to see if she could donate a portion of her liver to Thurman. To no one’s surprise, they were a perfect match.
“My first reaction was ‘no way.’ I didn’t want her to do that,” Thurman said.
But Karen wanted to donate. She was told she needed to lose weight before the transplant could take place, so she made that her mission. After her early morning duties as a school bus driver in Wauseon, Ohio, Karen would exercise for an hour and a half, and she would repeat that schedule after she was done with work in the afternoon. She made sure each meal was balanced, and she avoided empty calories. She lost 64 pounds in just over four months!
“I pushed my body beyond its limits, but I had to be healthy enough to donate,” Karen said.
And she did. On July 26, 2005, Karen saved her dad’s life.
Thurman experienced a complete transformation.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday. I felt like a whole new person within a day after surgery. I had absolutely no idea how sick I was before,” Thurman said. “They told me the more I walked, the better I would recover, and man, I was a walking fool! I could out walk anyone – including Karen!”
Karen remembers watching Thurman speed walk around the Mayo Clinic.
“He went from being very sick to feeling great, and I just kept thinking when I was walking and trying to keep up with him that I was supposed to be the healthy one!” Karen said.
Karen was discharged from the hospital about a week after the transplant, and Thurman was released a few days later.
Thurman is very grateful for his daughter.
“It’s just overwhelming if I really let myself think about it,” Thurman said. “She’s wonderful.”
Karen is also grateful for the experience.
“I would do it all again in a second,” Karen said. “Right before my surgery, the transplant coordinator told me I was a hero, and I said, ‘No, I’m blessed because I am able to do this for my dad.’”