Shown here with his children, from left; Madison, Christian and Alyssa, Orlando Realtor® David Fraser is grateful for the liver transplant that saved his life.
ORLANDO, Fla. – “It could have been worse,” says Orlando Realtor® David W. Fraser, of the seizure he suffered in April 2009.
Most people would wonder just what could be worse than waking up in the hospital to find out you have a life-threatening illness until Fraser explains that his seizure happened just after arriving to his family’s beach condo.
“If I had the seizure five minutes earlier, it would have happened while I was driving 80 miles per hour down a major highway,” says the sales associate with Keller Williams Advantage 3 Realty in Orlando/Lake Nona.
What happened next was a whirlwind journey.
“The doctors found that my body wasn’t processing iron. I had both hips replaced in the 1990s as a result of some sports injuries and the medication had damaged my liver. It was a perfect storm of problems,” he says.
For eight months, Fraser endured test after test, hoping to find out his liver would regenerate on its own.
Finally, in December 2009, “the doctors started the process of getting me listed on the organ transplant list. It’s quite a process where they run multiple tests, and interview me to make sure I’m financially, psychologically and medically a good candidate for a transplant,” he says.
He was finally added to the list in February 2010 and settled in for what he thought would be a long haul.
“However, I was going downhill very quickly. In fact, in August 2010, my doctor told me I had 30 days to live and sent me home from the hospital.”
By that time – less than a year – Fraser had been in five different hospitals for a total of 75 days.
The Long Wait
According to Fraser, liver disease reverses your body clock, “so I would be up all night. In fact, if I could’ve sold real estate at 3 a.m., I would be the richest Realtor around,” he laughs.
Long nights meant whiling away the time online. “While on Facebook, Fraser started chatting with an old friend, Kelly Stonebreaker (a Winter Springs real estate agent with EXIT Real Estate). “She told me she was up because she was in the hospital with a good friend whose husband was very ill. I told her I was up because of my liver disease,” he says.
The next day, a Saturday, Fraser dragged himself to the office and even watched the Florida Gator football game after work. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle, according to Fraser.
“My wife called and told me to hustle home because they found a donor match. I rushed home. Before going to the hospital, my wife and I went by our church to get a blessing,” he says.
At 5 p.m., the surgeon came in to explain the procedure. “He mentioned that I knew my donor. I thought he was mistaken until I put two and two together. Kelly’s friend’s husband had died, and the wife requested that I get his liver.”
Fraser was transplanted in September 2010, only seven months after being put on the transplant list. He was 45 years old. “I found out later that the wife didn’t want to transplant her husband’s organs. At the time, she was hurting too badly and was angry. Her daughter persuaded her to do it.”
Fraser sent a thank-you letter to the donor’s wife as well as letters on Christmas and on the anniversary of his liver transplant. The wife was never ready to meet him until three years had passed—December 2013.
“I came home from a conference and there was a letter from her explaining that enough time had passed, and she was ready to meet,” says Fraser. The donor’s wife explained the influence her daughter had in persuading her to agree to the organ donation, so they chose to meet during the daughter’s Christmas break.
“I worked up a million scenarios about how the meeting would go. My entire family went with me—my wife, Vickie, and my children Madison, 15, Christian, 11, and Alyssa, also 11. Once the daughter opened the door, and the donor’s wife came downstairs, we hugged and were like old friends,” he says.
“We had a ton of questions for each other,” says Fraser. “She truly wanted to know about each of us—likes, dislikes, hobbies and sports. We wanted to know about them and my donor. It was a very positive and healing conversation. The donor and his wife met when they were in high school. They were married for 23 years,” he says.
Fraser adds, “We’re going to keep in contact with each other. In fact, we exchange emails frequently, and my daughter talks to her daughter through social media.”
Make Your Wishes Known
What matters most, says Fraser, is that she decided to donate her husband’s organs. That decision saved lives, including his own.
“I do a lot of speaking for TransLife.org (#donatelife) about how important it is to register to be a donor, but more than that, to let your family know your wishes. It takes a huge amount of stress off the family if they know you want to donate your organs.
“It’s a hard conversation to have, but it’s important.”