Conn. fire captain receives 'the gift of life' from liver donor
Mansfield Fire Department Capt. Ted Morrissette, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease 18 years ago, is now recovering at home after a liver transplant
The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.
MANSFIELD, Conn. — After many months waiting for a new liver, Mansfield Fire Department Capt. Ted Morrissette was on the verge of dying.
However, a donor pulled through in the nick of time.
And, as a result, Morrissette is now recovering at home after a liver transplant Oct. 29 and more than a month at Hartford Hospital.
He said he does not know anything about the donor, but if he had the opportunity, he would thank that individual "for the gift of life."
"I can't really express the feelings because, like I said, I was probably 24 hours from death myself," said Morrissette, who turned 58 the day before he returned home.
The liver transplant occurred about 18 years after he was diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis ( PBC).
PBC causes progressive destruction of the bile ducts, causing liver damage.
Early symptoms of the disease include fatigue, itchy skin, dry eyes and dry mouth.
As the disease progresses, the following symptoms can occur, as well as several others: pain in the upper- right abdomen; swelling of the spleen, bone, muscle or joint pain; high cholesterol; and weight loss.
An entire liver may be donated from a deceased donor or a portion of the liver can be donated by a living donor.
Morrissette said the liver may have come from someone who lives hundreds of miles away.
Morrissette’s donor is a deceased donor, according to Mansfield Fire Chief Fran Raiola.
He said the town and the fire department are grateful for not only this donor, but for all people who are organ donors, and encouraged people to consider organ donation.
When Morrissette returned from the hospital Nov. 24, some of his family members and Mansfield firefighters were there to greet him.
“We had a nice welcome home for him,” Raiola said.
Morrissette said firefighters who were away for Thanksgiving and couldn’t be there called him in advance to congratulate him and wish him well.
He said he appreciates the support of his colleagues, who he said are family to him.
“For our department, I think it was a morale booster for us, seeing one of our own come home,” Raiola said.
Mansfield firefighters have assisted Morrissette with household duties, such as covering his boat and cleaning the yard.
Raiola said he and the other Mansfield firefighters will continue to support him and wish him a “quick and speedy recovery.”
Morrissette, who has been on medical leave since April, said he is expecting to fully recover within six months of returning home.
He said he is eager to get back to his full-time job at the Mansfield Fire Department, where he has worked for 39 years, and have a “sense of purpose” again.
Morrissette also expressed gratitude toward his wife, Melanie Morrissette, who goes with him to his doctor appointments and takes notes about what the doctors tell him.
“I don’t know if I could do it without her,” he said. “She’s fantastic.”
In the beginning, he said he was on a lot of different medication “but it’s starting to drop off.”
Morrissette currently gets blood drawn every week, a physical therapist visits his house twice a week and a visiting nurse comes twice a week.
“Right now, I’m just working on strength, balance,” he said.
Morrissette said he no longer uses a walker and is almost at the point where he will no longer need a cane.
He said for about 20 days of his hospital stay, he was on a feeding tube and can still only eat limited portions.
His appetite, however, is great.
“My body has accepted it so far,” Morrissette said, referring to the liver.
According to the Hartford HealthCare website, individuals must be at least 18 years old to be a living donor. A living donor does not need to be a blood relative.
There is no age limit for organ donation through the Hartford Hospital program.
There are many possible risks involved with a donor’s surgery, including infection, nausea, incisional hernia, pneumonia, blood clots, hemorrhaging, a potential need for blood transfusion and death.
For more information about liver donations, visit the Hartford HealthCare webpage at bit.ly/37ElmMg.
(c)2020 The Chronicle (Willimantic, Conn.)