MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

He Aint Heavy, He’s My Brother

with 2 comments

This is their story of friendship, faith and the ultimate sacrifice.

We met the brothers at 5:30 a.m. on July 29th in the waiting room at the University of Colorado Hospital. They were both in good spirits and surrounded by their parents, wives and siblings who were there for support.

By 6:00 a.m., Ryan and Chad were being prepped for surgery.

Chad was overcome with emotion as he told us about the day he learned his brother’s liver was a perfect match.

“It was a very humbling experience,” said Chad. “Ryan called me and said, ‘I’m a match.’ And you feel a lot of things at that point. Relief, gratefulness to God and to Ryan. And after that you wrestle with a lot of guilt, like I really don’t want to bring him through this. But he shut me up pretty fast and said, ‘Well, you would do it for me, wouldn’t you?'”

Chad had PSC, a disease of the liver for which there’s no cure. His symptoms were getting worse — the itching, fatigue and jaundice. He was in the final stages of liver failure, his condition was deteriorating and he needed a liver fast.

A living donor was his only hope, so his brother Ryan stepped in.

“You know, I love Chad. He’s my brother and he’s got a lot of life left to live,” Ryan told us as he was being prepped for the procedure. “I’m healthy and I know I’ll stay healthy. I’ll recover and I want to see him do the things he wants to do, and spend time with his family, and I want to have him around for a long time.”

Little was said as the brothers said goodbye to each in the surgery room. They hugged and smiled, but didn’t speak much.

Ryan’s surgery was first as they quickly whisked him away. Within minutes, the procedure began with a team of doctors who carefully removed 60 percent of Ryan’s healthy liver, while Chad patiently waited and shared his thoughts with us.

“The thing I’ve learned through all this is that God writes the story. It’s not my story to write. Ryan’s the hero and I’m just playing my part. He’s the real hero,” Chad told us.

Once the organ was removed from Ryan, it was carefully rinsed and carried next door to be transplanted into Chad after his diseased liver was removed.

Doctor Igal Kam performed the surgery on Ryan.

“We have two brothers here today and one of them is very sick and probably can’t hold on for too much longer,” Dr. Kam told us. “It’s hard for him with his disease to get to the top of the transplant list. But his brother came around and said he would give him part of his liver. It’s that kind of generosity that’s wonderful to see because he’ll probably save his brother’s life.”

Deaths of living donors are rare — about .5 to 1 percent, but the surgery is still risky. While both livers will regenerate and grow back to their original size, if too much is removed or something goes wrong, it’s the donor whose life is at risk.

“It’s still a very controversial surgery in the United States. There have been a few deaths of donors, healthy people who gave part of their liver and didn’t make it. But I think we’re very careful in selecting our donors and the chances of it happening here are very, very low,” Dr. Kam said with confidence.

In the initial days following the procedure, both men were recovering at different rates. Ryan’s family says one minute Chad was doing better, and then Ryan, and vice versa.

On July 30, Ryan was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, on the evening of July 31, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.

He died two days later, on Aug. 2.

Ryan Arnold was healthy, active and strong. He was a husband and father of three little boys, ages 1, 4 and 6.

Chad is now recovering at home. He’s tired and weak, but otherwise doing well.

He described to us how he first learned of his brother’s death.

“My dad came to my hospital room and grabbed my feet. He leaned forward and said, ‘I’ve got some bad news.” He was holding back the tears. “Ryan’s gone, but we still serve a good God.’ He couldn’t have said it better,” Chad told us.

Ryan gave Chad the gift of life, a gift which led to his own death. And because of that, Chad refuses to place the focus on himself.

“This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this,” Chad says.

And while there’s a huge scar on the outside, there’s one on the inside as well. Chad is now committed to living his life the way Ryan lived his: with faith, compassion and humility.

“Ryan gave without hesitation. It’s the ultimate sacrifice, but he’d do it again.”

Ryan Arnold was buried on August 9 in Watertown, South Dakota. He’s survived by his wife Shannon and three young boys, his parents and three siblings.


Written by MattAndJojang

August 21, 2010 at 11:02 am

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I thought about trying to come up with some word or words to describe that, but couldn’t.

    Thank you so much for sharing this.



    August 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm

  2. I can understand how you feel, David. It’s one of the most moving stories I’ve ever read…



    August 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: