The photographer at work
Three days after being released from Mt. Sinai Hospital after receiving a liver transplant, John Ranard recently began a series of self-portraits documenting his recovery. Ranard, who photographs and writes for The Villager, was diagnosed with liver cancer in April and just received a healthy 80-year-old liver. The liver doesnt age like other organs in the body; rather, it regenerates itself, meaning even a liver at such an advanced age is still suitable for transplantation.
Mt. Sinai has an aggressive transplant program geared to cutting the mortality rate of liver disease, especially with those patients with small cancer tumors. Liver cancer metastasizes quickly; the window of opportunity for transplantation in such cases is short.
Unlike many European countries, America does not have a presumed consent donor policy. Due to lack of donors, the average wait for a transplant in New York State is one to two years. Ranard was able to reduce this time by putting himself on a list agreeing to accept marginal livers.
Initially surprised by the age factor when the offer came unexpectedly during a 7:30 a.m. phone call, Ranard accepted immediately when told the donor liver was healthy and beautiful. Who doesnt want to be a part of something beautiful? joked Ranard. Also I didnt have much time. I was already six and a half months past diagnosis, sitting on the edge of eligibility. I knew I couldnt continue photographing 6 feet under, pushing up daisies.
Another influencing factor was that this donor had a long, full life, added Ranard. I dont think Im the beneficiary of an extreme tragedy. Whereas the generosity of the donor and his family has given me another chance at living, word coming up from my body is that this new liver is grateful to have such a young upstart carry it into the next century. It started working immediately.