No liver this time, but Beaches remain upbeat

Published 8:05 am Friday, March 6, 2009

SMITHFIELD—Smithfield police Lt. Kurt Beach is still waiting for a liver, for a transplant that nearly happened on Tuesday but was ultimately canceled.

Beach and wife Kathie drove up to the Hume-Lee Transplant Center at Virginia Commonwealth University late Monday night after they got a call that a liver from a deceased donor had become available.

They excitedly sent out an e-mail to family and friends with the news.

Then, the surgery that had been scheduled for 7 a.m. was canceled. Beach was told that the doctor, after taking a close look at the liver upon its arrival at the hospital, rejected it as not being a suitable match.

Finding the right liver is a process that Kathie calls “hit or miss.” In Beach’s case, there are prospective donors still on the list who have to go through the transplant center’s vetting process.

Kathie said she chooses to dwell on the positive, and is quick to point out that even a donor who can’t be matched with Kurt might end up helping out someone else. She recalls Newport News resident Teresa Janik, who tried to give a portion of her liver to Kurt in December but was not a match. Janik ended up being a match to a 12-year-old girl who needed a liver transplant.

For now, the Beaches are ready to take the trip to Richmond again should another liver be deemed a match for Kurt.

“We just keep our bags packed,” Kathie said in an e-mail update she sent out about the canceled surgery. “We know what not to pack and how to pack and what’s important and what’s not.”

In February, House Bill 2243, sponsored by Delegate William K. Barlow D-Smithfield, passed both the Virginia House and Senate. The bill provides $250,000 in financial relief to cover medical expenses that Beach has incurred while battling hepatitis C that he contracted on the job 20 years ago.

The Beaches plan to travel to Richmond to be present when Gov. Tim Kaine signs the bill. That is expected to take place very soon, said Kathie.

House Bill 2252 (also sponsored by Barlow), which aimed to alter the Virginia workers’ compensation law that rejected Beach’s request for compensation, was tabled this legislative session. The Beaches hope it will be presented again next year.

“Kurt will be strong enough by then with his new liver to advocate on behalf of its passing,” said Kathie.