Reverend gets Hero Award

Local reverend donates his liver and saves his mother's life


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Rev. Chad Gilbert sat anxiously by the phone as he awaited the doctor’s call that would tell him whether or not he could save his mother’s life.

Chad donated 60 percent of his liver to his mother, Tina Gilbert, who suffered from autoimmune hepatitis.

Tina waited for a new liver from a deceased donor for over a year after she developed liver disease and was hospitalized frequently.

“Because her model for end stage liver disease score was low, she was not high on the list for a deceased donor and therefore had a poor chance of getting transplanted soon,” Trevor Reichman, transplant surgeon and co-director of Living Donor Liver Transplant, Ochsner Multi-Organ Institute, said.

Chad said once he heard about the possibility of donating part of his liver to his mother, he knew it was an option he should consider.

“Her condition worsened, requiring another hospitalization, and that is when we met Jeanne Bergeron, a living-donor coordinator at Ochsner,” Chad said. “The moment she shared with us the possibility, I knew that I should pursue it.”

During the Saints’ pre- season game, on Friday, Aug. 9, Chad received the Oschner Hero Award after a series of liver tissue transplants.

Ochsner’s Living Donor Liver Program was started in 2012 and six surgeries have been performed since.

“The program was started in effort to offer an alternative option to people waiting on the [deceased donor] list for a transplant,” Reichman said.

Despite the risks of such a procedure, Chad and his family are confident that this decision was God’s will.

“We wanted God’s will to be done, not ours,” Chad said. “We knew there were risks, just as there are in any surgery, but we trusted that [God] would care for us, even if things went other than hoped.”

The surgery, scheduled only two weeks from the time that Chad learned of his ability to donate, was a success.

“Both procedures went well. Chad had no complications and was discharged from the hospital on post operative day number five. He returned to his job after four weeks. Imaging at three months post-donation revealed complete regeneration of his liver. [Tina] is still recovering from the surgery,” Reichman said.

Several months after Chad’s successful recovery, he received a surprising phone call from his surgeon.

“When I received the call from Dr. Trevor Reichman, my surgeon, my initial response was that he should be the one receiving the award, along with all the other nurses and doctors that have cared for my mother and I,” Chad said. “I am so deeply humbled and full of joy to have received the Ochsner Hero Award.”

Giselle Hecker, senior public relations specialist at Ochsner, said the award is limited to a number of donors.

“The [Oschner Hero Award] program honors only a small number of the unique patient stories that come through our doors,” Hecker said.

Since the surgery, Chad said his faith has strengthened.

“It is amazing how a major surgery can help clarify the purpose of your life,” Chad said. “I would say that the surgery has reinforced the reality that my life exists for God’s glory and has increased my family’s faith in him.”

“Not every organ recipient faces the challenges she has, but by God’s grace, she is still recovering. This physical trial in her life has also been a tremendous spiritual trial. Our family has grown spiritually in ways that only suffering can produce,” Gilbert said.

Mary Graci can be reached at [email protected]


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