Research Story Tip: Johns Hopkins Medicine Liver Transplant Patient Found Her Donor Via Facebook

12/08/2020

Over the past 12 years, Rachel Arnot Rockwell, a former elementary school teacher who lives in Baltimore, has battled primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an autoimmune disease that causes scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).

For Rockwell, this condition led to abnormalities in her bile ducts — the tubes that travel from the liver to the small intestine — which irreparably damaged her liver. PSC left her feeling tired and chronically itchy, along with a loss of appetite and fevers from recurring liver infections. Because of her illness, Rockwell had to take an extended leave of absence from her job and found it difficult to balance her medical needs with caring for her family, including two children ages 8 and 12.

 

The solution to Rockwell’s ordeal, according to the team treating her at Johns Hopkins Medicine, would be a liver transplant. So, she decided to post her story and her search for a donor on Facebook. Surprisingly, more than 50 people offered to help, including Katherine Corzine, a former classmate from the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, with whom Rockwell had graduated more than 20 years ago.

 

Happily, Corzine ended up being a suitable match for Rockwell. So, in late September of this year, Andrew Cameron, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Transplantation and professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led a multidisciplinary team that transplanted 60% of the right lobe of Corzine’s liver into Rockwell, ending the latter’s battle with PSC.

 

Since the surgery, Rockwell says she has noticed a significant difference in her physical and emotional health. As she enters the next phase of her life’s journey, Rockwell is considering furthering her education by obtaining a master’s degree in psychology, while pursuing teaching and other job opportunities. Most importantly, Rockwell no longer has a medical barrier to enjoying quality time with her family.

 

Rockwell, Corzine and Cameron are available for interviews.