Ten years ago, Brian Canoles was diagnosed with cirrhosis and told he may eventually need a liver transplant. Six years later, with his health in decline, a transplant was inevitable.
Then in March 2017, he became so ill his life was on the line. He was rushed by ambulance to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, then transported to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., home to the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, one of the largest liver transplant centers in the region. Here, patients on the wait list receive transplants faster than any other center in Maryland and D.C., and nearly three times as fast as other transplant centers.
There he remained, waiting for a suitable liver to become available. Time was ticking and if a solid match from an organ donor didn’t become available quickly, he would lose his life; in fact, he was given just three weeks to live.
On April 11, 2017, the match he desperately needed became available and the donor was a healthy, young person. Canoles had liver transplant surgery the same day at MedStar Georgetown, with Thomas Faust, MD, of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute serving as the hepatologist consultant—a specialist in liver disease—during the procedure.
“I was so sick I don’t remember much of what happened,” says Canoles, age 52. “Now that I am recovering, my wife has told me the story, and it feels unreal; it seems like it must be someone else’s story. But it’s mine.”
Dr. Faust, a professor of clinical medicine who specializes in caring for patients with liver disease or cancer, has devoted his career to helping patients just like Canoles. Streamlining the care process, and making it easier for patients to complete a liver transplant evaluation, has been a key priority for him over the past few years. In fact, it’s no longer necessary for patients who reside in the Baltimore area to travel back and forth to MedStar Georgetown for liver disease care and transplant evaluation. Dr. Faust now spends a portion of his time every week caring for patients at MedStar Franklin Square.
“Think about driving from Baltimore to Washington D.C. when you are feeling well; that drive is hard enough,” explains Dr. Faust. “Now imagine doing it over and over when you are extremely sick. We are building a program that avoids the need for so much back and forth travel for patients who are diagnosed with liver disease, and who are candidates for liver transplant. It’s positively impacting both the patient experience and outcomes.”
Aside from easier access to Dr. Faust, patients are able to complete the liver transplant evaluation process at MedStar Franklin Square using telehealth technologies. Every part of the process can be conducted virtually, using a computer, the same way it would be done in a patient exam room with a doctor physically present. “We are trying to make MedStar Franklin Square a centralized hub for liver disease care, while still giving our patients access to the clinical expertise, resources, and technologies that are available elsewhere,” says Dr. Faust. “The care and services we can offer are greater because of the MedStar Health system of care.”
“Words can hardly express my thanks,” Canoles says. “I was going to die. Not only did I live, but I feel good, am enjoying my life and doing the things I want … finally.”
One of those passions Canoles is back to pursuing is his love for music. He has built a state-of-the-art recording studio in the basement of his Parkville home. Whether he is singing, playing the piano or guitar, or just sitting back for a few moments of personal reflection, Canoles is constantly reminded of just how lucky he was.
“I’ve been given a second chance,” he says. “I can now live a normal, happy, healthy life.”
His wife, Kathleen, echoes that statement, and together they are expressing their appreciation for Canoles’ saved life by looking for ongoing ways to build awareness about the importance and impact of organ donation.
“When people give, others can receive,” she notes. “Many people die waiting for an organ—it never comes. We are doing our part to spread this message and encourage as many people as possible to become organ donors. Giving the gift of life is a beautiful thing. We are so grateful.”
For a physician referral, please call 443-777-2475.
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
Center for Digestive Disease
9000 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237
According to the American Liver Foundation, approximately 6,000 liver transplant surgeries are performed in the United States every year.
Having a healthy liver is essential to longevity because your liver is responsible for filtering blood and removing toxins from your body. A liver transplant is a last-resort measure for long-term liver diseases and sudden-onset liver diseases. It involves replacing the diseased organ with a healthy liver from a living or deceased donor.