Living Liver Donation: Brian and Jodey

Liver Transplant - Brian and Jodey
Brian Herberer, left, and his best friend,
Jodey Seaman.

Brian Herberer and Jodey Seaman are lifelong friends, so when Brian needed a liver transplant to save his life, Jodey stepped up to be a living donor. Here, Brian tells the story of his illness and how his best friend came to give him the gift of life.

I’ve known Jodey my whole life. We even went to daycare together!

Jodey has a twin brother. Growing up in small-town in Illinois, we did everything together — we were like triplets.

I thought we’d always be like that. I planned on being 50 years old and still being good friends, still watching sports together and doing life.

That future came to a screeching halt last February when I found out I had a terminal illness. My diagnosis was cryptogenic cirrhosis: end-stage liver disease. I was only 29.

My doctors told me I needed a liver transplant; without it, I’d die. They referred me to Dr. Sean Koppe at UI Health.

In the United States, about 15,000 people are on the waiting list to receive a liver transplant. I was about to take my place at the end of the line, but Jodey wasn’t having it. He immediately started researching liver donation. He told me: “Ask your doctor about a living donor.”

Jodey had to have a series of tests to make sure we were a match — that his liver was the right size, and that he was healthy enough to undergo the procedure. All the tests were good, and we scheduled the surgery.

Then, there was a hitch in the plan. My insurance would not cover the cost of living liver donation.

What happened next is a testament to UI Health’s dedication to its patients. Dr. Koppe personally intervened with my insurance company and fought for me to have my procedure at UI Health covered. Eventually, my insurance agreed to make an exception for my case.

Dr. Mario Spaggiari and Dr. Enrico Benedetti were our transplant surgeons. Dr. Spaggiari removed more than 60% of Jodey’s liver, and Dr. Benedetti performed the transplant for me.

I feel 100 times better than I did before my transplant. In fact, a month after surgery, I got married! Of course, Jodey was my best man.

The liver is an amazing organ that can regenerate itself over time. Even though Jodey left the hospital missing over half his liver, it was back to full size within three weeks of surgery!

As for me, I’m back to work, staying on my diet, remembering to take my meds. Jodey and I text every day, and we get together to watch sports like always. We have our future back.