On May 6, Nick and Amanda Johnas had finished their first dance as a married couple when Amanda’s father stepped onto the dance floor for the father-daughter dance. As Bob Mulkern held Amanda close, Nick watched, knowing the moment could have been vastly different.
In November 2015, Mulkern was rushed to the emergency room with what he thought was an allergic reaction after his tongue swelled up. Instead Mulkern was shocked to learn he had liver disease and liver cancer. While he initially underwent radiation treatments, it became clear that Mulkern’s only hope was a living donor liver transplant.
Unfortunately, none of Mulkern’s immediate family members – his wife, two sons or his daughter – were a match. That’s when Nick, Amanda’s then-fiancé, was tested as a potential donor.
“There was no question and I never had a doubt,” says Nick. “I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I could have helped and hadn’t done anything about it.”
Nick was a match. On Feb. 21, 2017, Parsia Vagefi, MD, a surgeon in the MGH Transplant Center, removed 60 percent of Nick’s liver for transplantation into Mulkern. Both surgeries – which involved a large team of nurses, doctors, surgeons and coordinators – were a complex success.
“A living donor transplant was Bob’s only real chance at survival,” says Vagefi. “Surgery for both the donor and recipient carry their own risks, but Nick truly felt like this was something he had to do and that he wanted to do.”
For Mulkern, the surgery was a step toward a new life. “The surgery didn’t rattle me because I knew it had to be done,” he says. “I was confident in the hands I was in as well. Dr. Vagefi was so professional and kept things light.”
Now, Mulkern shows no signs of liver cancer or liver disease and he says his liver and Nick’s liver are both regenerating at the correct size and rate.
“The father-daughter dance and the walk down the aisle were my motivations,” says Nick of his decision to donate. “The father-daughter dance was really when everything settled in. It was just so perfect to see a beautiful wife coming down the aisle with her father, knowing that he is healthy and has a new chance at life.”
For Amanda, her wedding day was nothing short of perfect. “It was like a fairytale – pure bliss and happiness. Here are the two men I love more than anything – one who I will spend the rest of my life with and the other who I’ve spent all of my life with. Now that Nick and I are married and my dad is healthy, I have everything I need. Now it’s just continued health and happiness.”
Read more articles from the 10/13/17 Hotline issue.