Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Love Thy Neighbor: Donating a Second Chance

Rachelle Jeffers and Allen ‘Bud’ Mitchell went to church together but they weren’t close. That changed when she found out he would die unless he found a liver donor. That’s how Jeffers became one of a growing number of living liver donors.



(page 1 of 2)


Rachelle Jeffers and Allen “Bud” Mitchell 
 

It’s one thing to take a cup of sugar from a neighbor. It’s quite another to take half her liver.

But for Allen “Bud” Mitchell, 79, it was either find a living donor — or die from liver failure. A retired Marine and military recruiter who had always stayed fit, Mitchell was shocked when he was diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis in 2016. He had little hope of surviving long enough to rise to the top of the waiting list for a liver from a deceased donor.

His wife, Ruth, spread the word all around their community in Altoona, but time and again, the couple struck out. Their friends were too old, and even their son, John, was just a few months over the 55-year age cutoff. Others were completely baffled by the idea of giving up half an organ. A kidney was one thing, they would say, knowing they had one to spare, but a liver? Even when they learned their liver would regenerate, it still seemed like a scary idea.

On a Sunday morning in May 2017, Bud was sitting in the back pew at the Fourth Street Church of God in Altoona after the service, thinking how his health had deteriorated from someone who had zoomed down the steepest slopes at Blue Knob mountain on a bodyboard. Now his abdomen was so bloated with excess fluid that he couldn’t bend over to tie his shoes.
 


Bud and Ruth Mitchell 
 

As Bud pondered his mortality, Ruth was mingling in the sanctuary and ran into Rachelle Jeffers, 33, a fellow choir member. Ruth burst into tears as she talked about her husband’s failing liver and their desperate need for a donor.

Rachelle knew Ruth was merely venting, but a voice in her head was telling her to “offer” — as in, offer to give up part of her liver. But instead of pushing away the thought as a crazy whim, as many people might, she took it as a sign from God. 

Rachelle turned to Bud, saying, “I’m your person.” She told him she was going to get tested to see if she was a match.

He stared incredulously at the young woman. The Mitchells knew Rachelle from church, but they hadn’t socialized much. “Why?” he thought to himself.  Why would a young woman who had her life ahead of her take that risk for him? 

On the drive home, Rachelle told her husband, “I may or may not have offered my liver today.” He stared at her. When she explained that she wanted to be a living donor to help save the life of another church member, he said he understood. 
 


Dr. Abhi Humar, chief of the UPMC Division of Transplantation
 

Her mother, understandably protective, expressed her worries with her daughter, but Rachelle asked her not to share those concerns any more with her before surgery. She only wanted positive thoughts. 

Rachelle underwent testing at UPMC, and she was deemed a good match, based on her A-negative blood that matched Bud’s, the configuration of her liver and the fact that she was young and fit. Elated by the news, she called Bud. They both choked up on the phone. 
 
As he prepared for the nine-hour operation, Bud was racked with worries about risks to a donor 44 years younger. “What if she gets sick or dies?” he asked his wife. “Am I worth it?”
Bud wasn’t sure if he could ever be as selfless as Rachelle. “If someone asked me to do this, and I wasn’t their brother or sister, would I do it? I honestly couldn’t say yes.” He called and gave her an out. “You don’t have to do this.” She never wavered. 

Just a few weeks later on June 1, 2017, the double surgery took place at UPMC Montefiore Hospital. Rachelle was calm, but Bud was nervous about both of their surgeries as they were wheeled in to the operating rooms. While one team of surgeons took out 47 percent of Rachelle’s liver, Bud’s surgeons removed his diseased tissue. As soon as the healthy lobe was attached, Bud was on his way to his second chance at life with a fully functioning liver.

At the time of his surgery, the 77-year-old was the oldest person to undergo a living-donor liver transplant at UPMC, the nation’s leader in the procedure.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Your 10 best bets for this month include WizardVue, rooftop yoga and Spamilton.

The Summer Movies in the Park Are Awesome This Year

The City of Pittsburgh's annual Cinema in the Park series returns with another summer of free outdoor movies for all.

7 Storylines Which Will Define and Determine Steelers' Season

An unfamiliar underdog status may help the Steelers get back to the playoffs and beyond.

Can't Miss Concerts in Pittsburgh in June

This month's lineup includes Ariana Grande, Hiss Golden Messenger and a full slate at the Three Rivers Arts Festival.

June 2019: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Joe Morrison Takes the Director's Chair at Pittsburgh Filmmakers

After years of uncertainty, the cinemas of Pittsburgh Filmmakers now have a leader with experience building and engaging audiences.

Unlock Special View of Pittsburgh for a Limited Time

Attention all boaters! The locks on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers will open most summer weekends, allowing you to visit sights you couldn’t get to before.

Get To Liberty Magic to See the Excellent Billy Kidd

The British magician's new show, "Bridging the Gap," brings theatricality and surprising performance to the parlour-magic stage.

The 400-Word Review: The Perfection

Netflix's troubling new thriller stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of “I”: New and Selected Poems by Toi Derricotte and Regular Hauntings: New and Previous Poems by Gerald Costanzo.

What Are You Doing to be Like Mister Rogers on 1-4-3 Day?

Pennsylvania names May 23 as 1-4-3 Day to celebrate its favorite neighbor.

The 400-Word Review: Aladdin

Disney's live-action remake of the '90s hit stars Will Smith as the iconic Genie.

Sharing Knives Grows into Sharing Farms

For its third season, the collaborative dinner series at Ace Hotel will celebrate the region’s growers.

A Slice of Pizza Kept Sean McDowell Going in the Early Days

After 41 years in the business, the legendary rock DJ on WDVE has announced his retirement.

This New App Will Help You Track Upcoming Cicada Swarm

Follow Brood VIII, which is expected to have three species of periodical cicadas emerging from the soil as early as this month, on the Cicada Safari App.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


The Summer Movies in the Park Are Awesome This Year

The Summer Movies in the Park Are Awesome This Year

The City of Pittsburgh's annual Cinema in the Park series returns with another summer of free outdoor movies for all.

Comments

Unlock Special View of Pittsburgh for a Limited Time

Unlock Special View of Pittsburgh for a Limited Time

Attention all boaters! The locks on the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers will open most summer weekends, allowing you to visit sights you couldn’t get to before.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Sharing Knives Grows into Sharing Farms

Sharing Knives Grows into Sharing Farms

For its third season, the collaborative dinner series at Ace Hotel will celebrate the region’s growers.

Comments

A Look at the Latest Restaurant Openings in Pittsburgh

A Look at the Latest Restaurant Openings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh says hello (again) to Dish Osteria, Cinderlands Warehouse, Pizzeria Davide and more.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


Get To Liberty Magic to See the Excellent Billy Kidd

Get To Liberty Magic to See the Excellent Billy Kidd

The British magician's new show, "Bridging the Gap," brings theatricality and surprising performance to the parlour-magic stage.

Comments

The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls is a Treasure

The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls is a Treasure

The small, second venue above the Millvale hall is one of the city's best rooms for live music.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
7 Storylines Which Will Define and Determine Steelers' Season

7 Storylines Which Will Define and Determine Steelers' Season

An unfamiliar underdog status may help the Steelers get back to the playoffs and beyond.

Comments

Pirates’ First Quarter Record Defies Logic if Not Description

Pirates’ First Quarter Record Defies Logic if Not Description

The 21-19 record the Bucs took to San Diego doesn’t add up given all they’ve had to overcome. Perhaps there’s more to this team than meets the eye.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Perfection

The 400-Word Review: The Perfection

Netflix's troubling new thriller stars Allison Williams and Logan Browning.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Aladdin

The 400-Word Review: Aladdin

Disney's live-action remake of the '90s hit stars Will Smith as the iconic Genie.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
This Wedding Had a Guest List Unlike Any Other

This Wedding Had a Guest List Unlike Any Other

Brendan Renne and Thais Canedo wanted a penguin at their wedding. They ended up with a menagerie.

Comments

You’ll #ShalieveInLove After Seeing Ryan Shazier's Wedding Photos

You’ll #ShalieveInLove After Seeing Ryan Shazier's Wedding Photos

Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier danced at his wedding Friday 18 months after a serious spinal injury.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
New Tour Gives Insider Look at Pittsburgh’s Ethnic Neighborhoods

New Tour Gives Insider Look at Pittsburgh’s Ethnic Neighborhoods

With stops in Bloomfield and Polish Hill, the event from DOORS OPEN Pittsburgh celebrates the contributions immigrants made when they settled here more than a century ago.

Comments

Three North Side Garden Tours (And One on the South Side) You'll Want to Explore

Three North Side Garden Tours (And One on the South Side) You'll Want to Explore

Here’s your chance to explore some the city’s most beautiful historic (and new) homes and outdoor spaces.

Comments