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Triple transplant survivor credits network of care

By Chris Michlewicz; photo courtesy of Richard Farrell

Photo of Richard Farrell, a triple transplant survivor

Richard Farrell, a triple transplant survivor, is thankful that he has been able to watch his daughters Brielle (left) and Baleigh (right) grow up. Farrell credits his survival to great medical care and a network of supporters.

Richard Farrell has been through a lot – even flatlining three times during a series of medical episodes – and yet he stands strong in the face of adversity with a little help from a community of supporters.

It began when his liver failed at the age of 33 due to toxicity from an over-the-counter pain reliever. Farrell’s life was saved by an emergency liver transplant and “God’s grace” in the form of Castle Rock resident Dr. Thomas Heffron, who then worked at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta at the time.

Farrell has another staunch ally in his fight to stave off rejection and other transplant-related issues – his fiancé, Teresa Jones, who has advocated for him at every turn. She even donated one of her kidneys to him as part of a paired exchange program when his failed due to the effects of anti-rejection medications. Then, one year later and 19 years after his liver transplant, Farrell woke up to find his entire body swollen. Following a series of tests, he sent the results to Heffron, who was working at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. Heffron told him to immediately get on a plane to Colorado. Shortly thereafter, Farrell underwent another emergency liver transplant, his third transplant.

And Farrell has been here ever since, convalescing in a home in Castle Pines belonging to Delores and Ken Stafford. Delores Stafford has been best friends with Teresa since high school, and she and Ken opened their home to Teresa and Richard so he could be close to Heffron and the care the doctor provides.

“Being around Ken and Delores has humbled me. I couldn’t pay for rent, electric or food,” he said. “I would do anything and everything for them because of what they did for me, because I wouldn’t have made it.”

Farrell, now 54, believes the next year of his life will be the most critical. He recently endured hip surgery stemming from bone loss that occurs with the ingestion of anti-rejection medications. He was also the victim of an error by a hospital intern, who punctured a hole in his neck during a routine procedure.

Farrell has made it through his many ordeals thanks, in large part, to the kindness of strangers, including the organ donors.

“Someone’s life was given so you could stay alive,” he said. “That has a huge impact on your outlook.”

That is part of his motivation for moving forward through tremendous pain and mental anguish – living his best life to honor those who are no longer here.

Farrell has lost so many fellow transplant recipients that he now avoids making friends in the hospital, and sometimes is left wondering why he’s the one still here. At the same time, his gratitude for Heffron, the Staffords and Teresa couldn’t be greater.

“Without them, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.

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