With a New Liver, She Takes Care of a New Life
Donna Goshow spends every weekday caring for a 5-month-old infant. While it’s not unusual these days for grandmothers to babysit, Goshow is the baby’s great-grandmother. Not that long ago, Goshow, 70, was so gravely ill with liver disease that she could barely take care of herself, much less a baby.
After many medical crises, Goshow got a liver transplant in May of 2019 at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. Now she’s fully recovered and spending her days changing diapers, warming bottles and pushing a stroller.
“My health is great,” Goshow said one recent day after putting baby Sawyer in for his morning nap. She takes care of him from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day while Sawyer’s mother – her granddaughter – works, which has made her “happy busy.”
The baby has also brought joy to Goshow and her family in the aftermath of grief. In April, four months before Sawyer was born, one of her grandsons, 23, was killed in a four-wheeler ski accident in the Poconos. “He’s such a good baby and he’s brought happiness in all the craziness of this world,” she says.
Goshow was diagnosed with liver disease in 2017, a fact she found shocking since she doesn’t drink.
She thought it was ironic, too. “My father was a heavy drinker, a heavy smoker and he never got liver disease and he lived to be 87,” she says with a good-natured laugh.
Not ‘Too Old’ for a Transplant
When a transplant was first recommended, Goshow declined. “I was 68 years old and I said I’m too old. I felt like I was taking a liver away from somebody younger.”
But doctors reassured her that she was in good shape, her family needed her and she had years to live. She was referred to Einstein and her name was put on the transplant list.
Goshow had no symptoms for a year after her diagnosis. But that changed in 2018 when her health deteriorated rapidly. She lost weight. Her skin became sallow.
One day, her stomach ballooned with excessive abdominal fluid, which led to a weekly procedure at a hospital to drain the fluid.
Then she was hospitalized after behaving erratically, irrationally and aggressively – or, as she puts it, “I turned into the Incredible Hulk” – because of ammonia on the brain.
Meanwhile, like many organ recipients, Goshow experienced a few letdowns when a possible organ match fell through. She’d be called to the hospital when a potential organ was available, worked up for hours for the transplant surgery, and go home deflated and depressed when it didn’t work out.
She agreed to accept a liver that was infected with hepatitis C to give her more options. Livers with hepatitis C are now used for transplant because the disease has become curable. Transplant recipients are given medication and in the vast majority of cases, the hep C is cured.
Disappointment, Then a Match at Last
The last time Goshow was summoned to Einstein, she’d literally just returned home from another disappointing trip. She got a call, turned around and went right back. While she was waiting for test results, she asked God for a sign that this time would work out.
“I love cooking channels and I was watching Bobby Flay,” she says of the celebrity chef whose show appears on the Food Network. “He always makes these exotic dishes and they announced he was making – of all things – liver and onions! I said, ‘That’s it, that’s the sign: I’m getting this liver.’”
And she did.
Goshow is deeply grateful for the care she received at Einstein, whose liver transplant program outperforms national statistics and other hospitals in the region, according to national transplant rankings.
Einstein has the only Tier 5 liver program in Pennsylvania, according to the Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients. A Tier 5 (on a 1–5 scale) indicates the highest rate of survival among transplant programs.
Statistics are one thing; personal experience is another. And Goshow’s experience was wonderful. “I couldn’t have asked for nicer people,” she says, praising everyone from housekeepers to food hostesses to nurses. “And the doctors, they were super.”
With medication, Goshow was cured of hepatitis C immediately. Now, less than two years later, she’s fully recovered and strong enough to take care of an infant every day. “It keeps my mind young, and it’s fun, too,” she says.
Learn more about Einstein’s organ transplant program.