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Aug 7, 2017 · Thank you Dr. Busuttil for saving my life and thousands of others for over the past 33 years!

Yesterday, Dr. Busuttil and I crossed paths and exchanged a friendly hello and smile back at each other just like we would normally do while walking around UCLA. But yesterday our brief encounter was made extra special when he came back with a few of his transplant team and asked them to take a picture of us together. I’m always delighted to see Dr. Busuttil and so many other people who I was or are under their care and I always think back at where I would be without them in my life. Here is a brief story of how and why Dr. Busuttil is probably the only reason why I’m still here today.

In February of 1984, Dr. Busuttil performed the very first liver transplant west of the Mississippi River at UCLA. Four months later, I was born with a birth defect called Biliary Atresia and my liver was failing. After a year of numerous surgeries and procedures to save my liver while I was an infant, nothing worked and the only way my life would be saved was to have a liver transplant. Call it fate, call it coincidence, or call it luck, but my parents and I were at the right place at the right time living in Southern California where we were referred to Dr. Busuttil at UCLA and was on the transplant list in 1985.

I was just an infant and toddler then so I don’t remember anything of what it was like being sick, going through all the painful surgeries and procedures, or not knowing if I’ll live but I can only imagine how scared and worried my parents felt knowing that their very first child will need a liver transplant in order to survive when liver transplantation was in its pioneering days, let alone when there were no organ donor registry. My parents were very brave to have gone through everything and had so much trust and faith in Dr. Busuttil and everyone at UCLA.

In May of 1986, when I was just one month away from turning two, I received that life saving transplant. My mom shared with me that she was so worried and scared about what my life would be after my transplant, but she said her worries and fears were all lifted away and were exchanged with tears of joy when she saw me playing kick ball with Dr. Busuttil in the hospital hallway a week or so after my transplant. It is so surreal to look back and think that when I was barely two years old, I was one of the first 30 patients to have received a liver transplant performed at UCLA by Dr. Busuttil. Now him and his liver transplant team has performed well over 6,000 transplants since 1984.

Due to the fact that liver transplantation was in its pioneering days back then, so were the medications. Unfortunately my first liver transplant didn’t last as long as everyone hoped and I needed another transplant when I was 15 and was put back on this transplant list in 2000. One month after I turned 16, I was fortunate again to receive my 2nd transplant which was performed again by Dr. Busuttil. I guess you can say that Dr. Busuttil knows me internally more than anyone else, even myself!

I have shared my story to many people and have met a person who shared that he had a sister who had liver disease but unfortunately she passed away because she was born before liver transplantation was available. This puts so much into perspective of how crazy life can be. What if I was born a year earlier? What if my parents and I lived somewhere else? What if Dr. Busuttil didn’t start the liver transplant department in 1984? So many “what if’s” that could change what my life would be.

All in all, I wouldn’t be alive 31 years ago if it wasn’t for Dr. Busuttil! Words can not describe how thankful I am of your ingenuity, passion, and dedication to create UCLA’s liver transplant department 33 years ago and to where it is at now, world renowned!

Thank you Dr. Busuttil!

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Jan 15, 2013 · 2 Times Liver Transplant Survivor

My name is Vicky I’m 28 years old and I’m a 2x liver transplant survivor. Throughout my life, I never knew what life was like before my first transplant. You see, shortly after I was born, I was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a birth defect where the bile ducts don’t form properly to the liver. After a failed Kasai procedure, it was determined that my liver would fail and that the only thing that would save my life was to have a liver transplant. Before 1984, no one west of the Mississippi river had done a liver transplant. Fortunately, UCLA Medical Center and Dr. Busuttil performed the very first liver transplant on February 1, 1984. About two years later since the first transplant and one month before I turned 2, years old, I received my very first liver transplant performed here at UCLA by none other than Dr. Busuttil and his team. I believe I was one of the very first thirty or so patients who have received a liver transplant here and I’m considered as one of their pilot patients during their pioneering days.

Due to the fact that I was just a wee little baby, my thoughts and emotional experiences during my first transplant can only be retold by my parents’ own experiences. Since I was their first child, both went through an emotional roller-coaster. They were afraid that I wouldn’t make it through the intense medical challenges at such a young age especially when it was during UCLA’s pioneering days of Liver Transplantation yet felt so fortunate that liver transplantation was available to save my life. But a week after my transplant, my mom cried tears of joy when she witnessed me laughing and giggling while I was playing kick ball with Dr. Busuttil in the hospital hallway. During my childhood and teenage years, I was still cared for by all the wonderful doctors, nurses, and medical staff at UCLA. As a transplant patient and being on immunosuppressant medications, the Mattel Children’s Hospital was a second home due due to common childhood diseases. Since I was always surrounded by amazing physicians, nurses, and medical staff during my childhood, I strived to do well in school so that one day I can be as great as they are. Unfortunately, my first transplant didn’t lasted as long as everyone hoped for. I was placed on the waiting list again on January 2000 and received my second transplant 6 months afterwards and one month after I had my sweet 16th birthday.

Growing up and living every day as a two time liver transplant survivor has made me very passionate about helping people, and especially children, affected by transplantation. I volunteer at many organizations like the Painted Turtle Camp, Donate Life, and OneLegacy. I’m also passionate about educating and advocating for donor and tissue registration. As a Donate Life Ambassador, I went to Sacramento and helped support legislation that would promote organ and tissue donation education in high schools, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed laz AB 1967 into law this past September, I was named one of Donate Life America’s 12 Most Inspiring Women of 2012, I’ve volunteered as a decorating supervisor for the Donate Life Rose Parade float for the past four years, and was selected to be this past Donate Life Rose Parade float rider. I’ve been a guest speaker at many medical conferences, symposiums, and ceremonies to prove that organ and tissue donation does work. Now, I’m training to run a half marathon for this year’s upcoming LA Marathon. Without having my liver transplants and my continuing healthcare at UCLA, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do any of this. Other than taking my daily anti-rejection medications every day for the rest of my life, I’m able to live a normal life with little to no limitations

Believe it or not, having two transplants in my lifetime are huge blessings in my life. I’m 28 years old now and I don’t take any advantage that I’ve been a liver transplant survivor for the more than 26 years. I’m able to turn my challenges into greater opportunities. I look forward to continue making a difference in many people’s lives, giving back to the community, especially the UCLA community, to eventually have a beautiful family of my own, have a future filled with many loving memories, and have great relationships with friends and families

For all the doctors, nurses, and staff members at UCLA Medical Center, I want to truly thank you for everything. You have been there for me, made me strong, healthy, happy, and are my role models to make a difference in the world. You guys are the best.