Professor owes life to his daughter

WSU professor Stephen Antolovich has a daughter, Laura, who works behind the scenes to produce commercials and conferences in Atlanta. But last year she assumed a lead role in a drama that not only saved her father’s life, but is giving him back the life of teaching, research and scholarship that he loves.

After feeling ill on a flight into Spokane in August 2003, Antolovich was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. However, his liver had been degraded by use of sulfa drugs for another medical condition, and the intestinal surgery triggered liver failure. By September, he had lost 40 pounds, could no longer walk and struggled to talk.

Antolovich went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in hopes of a transplant. But doctors determined he would not live long enough to receive a cadaverous liver according to the federal ranking system.

“At this point, my children (son and two daughters) volunteered to be living donors,” Antolovich said. When two of them were disqualified, “chances didn’t look too good,” he said. But Laura, his eldest daughter, did qualify.

In November 2003, Laura donated 70 percent of her liver to her father. Both the removal and transplant were successful. “I was able to return to our home on Moscow Mountain in time to celebrate Christmas,” Antolovich said.

“Laura’s gift to me is really amazing and took a lot of courage,” her father said. “She is a healthy young woman with an extremely active professional and social life. Her sacrifice is the real story.”

Laura was left with only 30 percent of her liver. However, the liver is the one organ in the body that regenerates itself, Antolovich said. Back at work after about a month, Laura has now fully returned to her active life.

And her father is well on his way. A professor of mechanical and materials engineering, he has returned to WSU this semester for the first time since his transplant.

“The change for me has been spectacular,” Antolovich said. “I have enough energy to teach two classes this semester and have recently negotiated a contract to write a graduate text book in fracture mechanics. My dream is to be able to become active in research once again and, towards that end, I am writing proposals.”

He thanked his students and colleagues for their support throughout his ordeal, and offered to discuss his experience with anyone contemplating liver transplant surgery.

“It feels great to be able to function normally again,” Antolovich said. “This procedure gave me back my life.

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