SWARTZ CREEK — More than three years ago Swartz Creek resident Jim Dorff received two lifesaving transplants.
“It was a terrifying experience,” Dorff, now 43 years old, said.
In 2005 Dorff was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease and required a liver and kidney transplant to save his life. His condition worsened after his diagnosis and the battle for his life included a condition in his brain called encephalopathy which caused him to have hallucinations.
From the day of his diagnosis in April of 2005 to the day of his transplant surgery on Feb. 4, 2009, he went from weighing 245 pounds down to just 88 pounds.
Dorff said one person said he looked like a skeleton with skin pulled over it.
Dorff first went on the transplant list to receive the new organs in November of 2007. He said that at three different times organs were procured for him, but each time the organs were not a perfect match.
“If you put something in that is just not right, I will die,” he said.
Finally, with his condition worsening, Dorff went to the the top of donor list and received a liver and kidney from a 17-year-old kid in February of 2009.
Dorff said he knows nothing about the teen who gave the organs to him except that the donor’s heart, lung, liver, kidney and corneas went to four different people.
The transplant surgery was performed by Dr. Marwan Kazimi at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
“It was an absolutely phenomenal hospital,” Dorff said. “Dr. Kazimi is the inspiration of what other doctors should follow. He is one incredible doctor. I was blessed to have him as one of my main doctors.”
After the 14 hour transplant surgery in 2009, Dorff had six additional follow up surgeries over a 14 month period, with three total surgeries performed by Dr. Kazimi.
“I work harder and harder every single day. It was terrifying and scary,” Dorff said. “I have the attitude today that nothing is taken for granted.”
After the transplant surgery, Dorff spent eight weeks in a rehab facility at Genesys in Grand Blanc. Dorff said he had to learn how to swallow and walk again.
Today, Dorff said he is doing good. He said at his last doctor’s appointment he received a clean bill of health. However, Dorff added that for the rest of his life he will be required to take anti-rejection medications so that his body does not reject the new organs.
Dorff thanks his mother, Joan Dorff, his two daughters, Angelynn Dorff and Cyndi Hart, and his sister, Karen Gardner, for their support during his fight for his life.
“They kept me going. They really inspired me. They kept pushing me,” he said.
Currently, Dorff works as a metal buyer for H&H Metal in Inkster. He has enjoyed recent vacations to Florida and Missouri with his family, and he plans to go elk hunting in Rock Springs, Wyoming, around the end of September.
“Something I always wanted to do is go big game hunting,” he said.
Further, Dorff volunteers as a Transplant Living Community ambassador, where he talks to patients before their transplants.
“It’s a very humbling experience to be there to help other people because there was people there to help me,” he said.
Dorff participated in a golf outing on August 4 at Willow Brook Golf Course in Byron to raise money for the National Foundation of Transplants (NFT). NFT is a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise funds to pay for transplant-related expenses.
“They were there for me the whole way through,” Dorff said. “They helped me out and it’s my turn to return the favor.”
Dorff also works as a volunteer for Gift of Life, the Michigan organ and tissue donation program.
“It’s about giving back today,” he said.
Finally, Dorff said it was important that people become organ donors.
“If someone wasn’t a donor, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “You never know who is going to need it, including yourself.”