Lifesaving small bowel transplant opens door to new life for Wendy

Lifesaving Small Bowel Transplant Opens Door to New Life for Wendy

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Wendy Ryan receives a hug from Dr Matsumoto, who performed her successful small bowel transplant operation.

For more than a decade after suffering a traumatic injury that damaged her small bowel, Wendy Ryan’s life was focused on surgeries and treatments to help her body get the nutrition it needed. She was unable to eat and received all her nutrition through an IV. As the years passed, Wendy’s condition worsened. Her gastroenterologist referred her to MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute and Cal Matsumoto, MD, director of Intestinal and Multivisceral Transplant.

Rohan was the donor for Wendy Ryan. “Wendy had a very chronic condition that was untreatable with any conventional surgery or medicine,” explains Dr. Matsumoto. “She came to us as a last resort in dire straits. She couldn’t eat. She had constant nausea, vomiting, and pain. The best option for her was a small bowel transplant.”

Wendy was placed on the transplant waiting list. After four months on the waiting list, Wendy got the call that an organ was available and Dr. Matsumoto performed a successful small bowel transplant at MedStar Georgetown. After recovery, she was able to eat again and began to get stronger and healthier.

When Wendy got home from the hospital after her transplant, a letter from Candice, the mother of her donor was waiting for her. “The letter explained that Rohen was a 10-year-old boy from Michigan who died from a brain aneurysm. He was a very kind young man who excelled at electronics, math, and computers. He loved dogs and wanted to become a K-9 handler,” says Wendy. “I wrote to his mom to tell her how grateful I was. I wanted her to know how important what she had done was and that I recognized that in her darkest hour, she had chosen to give life to so many others (19 other people also received organs and tissue from Rohen).”

Wendy and Candice wrote several letters to each other and chatted on a few FaceTime calls. Then, on what would have been Rohen’s 12th birthday, Candice and her husband John traveled to McLean, Virginia to finally meet Wendy in person. During the emotional meeting, Candice told Wendy she felt close to her son when she was with her.

Wendy and her family wanted to do something special to honor Rohen’s memory. Because he loved dogs and had hoped to be a K-9 handler, Wendy’s brother, a police chief in California, offered to name one of their canine unit dogs after Rohen.

Wendy Ryan with her family outdoors.

Candice was deeply touched by the offer and says, “There are so many beautiful connections already between Wendy and me. Rohen was a dog person and he wanted to be a K-9 handler when he grew up. This tribute to him and his legacy is another amazing gift Wendy and her family were able to give back."

Thanks to Rohen’s donation, Wendy is able to eat dinner with her family, hike with her husband and friends, and attend her daughter’s graduation from nursing school, all things she couldn’t dream of doing before her transplant.

“Before my transplant, I was living on that precipice between living and dying, going to sleep, not knowing if I was going to wake up the next day,” says Wendy. “For so many years, my world was collapsing in on itself. Thanks to Rohen’s gift of life, my world is opening up again.”

Notes Dr. Matsumoto, “For two decades, we have been providing patient-centered care for intestinal disease and offering new hope for people affected by these serious, life-altering diseases. And we’re looking forward to continuing to care for these patients and moving the field of intestinal disease treatment into the future.”

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