On July 8, there will be a special game. The Westside Woolly Mammoths take on the Utica Unicorns at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, Michigan. These two independent baseball league teams won’t just be playing baseball, they’ll also be helping promote living donor liver transplant to 4,500 fans. How? My husband, a 2019 recipient of a living donor liver, had an idea a few months ago to combine his love of baseball and our desire to promote living donor liver transplant. The idea was an event that could be sponsored by our Foundation, the Living Liver Foundation (www.livingliver.org). When we contacted Jimmy John’s Field to pitch them the idea, they jumped right in. They understood the urgency to promote this life saving procedure few know much about. Together, we came up with three ways to highlight it.
First, the opening pitch will be led by four people who know liver transplant well: a Henry Ford Health transplant surgeon and nurse as well as a living liver donor and his or her recipient. For this first event, my brother-in-law, Mark Dybis, and my husband, Dave Galbenski, will serve as the living liver donor and transplant recipient duo. They experienced transplant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit on November 25, 2019. Dave’s transplant surgeon, Dr. Atsi Yoshida, will be the featured surgeon and Dave’s post-transplant nurse, Martha Stella, will complete the pitching crew.
Second, during the game a short Henry Ford Health video will be shown on the scoreboard which explains to fans how living donor liver transplant works. It will answer questions such as: who can become a living donor? What is the screening process like? How does a donor donate part of his or her liver to a recipient? Does the liver regenerate to full size in the donor and recipient? Which Michigan transplant center has the most experience with living donor liver transplant?
Finally, Mark will be honored as the game’s home town hero for having the courage to donate a portion of his liver to save a life. This will also allow fans to see that Mark is doing well 2.5 years after donation.
A fireworks show will occur right after the game. If you live in southeastern Michigan, consider joining us. Tickets are still available. If everything goes well, we hope to make it an annual event at Jimmy John’s Field and use the event as a template to promote living donor liver transplant at other sports venues.