ESSEX — It was 27 years ago that Essex resident Paul Sullivan was involved in a motor vehicle accident that left him with severe injuries, most notably the loss of one arm.
While surgeons were able to reattach the limb, the process included transfusions of some 49 pints of blood. And one of those pints was contaminated with Hepatitis C, he said.
Now Sullivan, 47, is fighting a new battle more than two decades after that crash. He said that, once into his early 40s, he started feeling ill. He subsequently got his gallbladder removed, although that was not his biggest problem. During the surgery, which was done through laparoscopy, the doctors found that Sullivan's liver had been damaged beyond repair by Hepatitis C.
"It ate my liver," Sullivan said last week. "(It) slowly ate my liver and finally caught up with me."
Through a team of specialists at Lahey Clinic, Sullivan began his road to recovery, and was placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant.
In that time, about two years ago, he also got married — finding a woman whom he felt was a "perfect match."
Now that expression is proving true in a way he and his wife Lisa, 35, would never have previously imagined: she has proven to be a perfect match for his liver transplant as well.
Today, the couple are checking in for surgery at Lahey to undergo the needed surgery.
"Talk about being the love of my life," said Sullivan regarding his wife. "She is saving my life."
"Monday's the day," he said. "There is a little bit of nervous but a lot more excitement, me being able to live a lot longer."
Sullivan said he was excited about moving on after years of testing and impeding illness.
"I'm a fighter," said Sullivan. "I ripped my arm off and I put it back on."
In light of the couple's surgery and projected lengthy recovery, friends of the couple are holding a Christmas Benefit Party in their honor.
The fund-raiser is pegged for Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Italian Community Center, 300 Rantoul St., Beverly.
The fund-raiser was planned by Sullivan's friends, Kevin Proctor and Neil Rossman, whom Sullivan described as fingers on his hand.
The benefit is in hopes of raising money to cover the cost of living for the Sullivans during their recovery period.
Donations can be given at the event or directly sent to the Paul & Lisa Sullivan Benefit Fund at Beverly Cooperative Bank on Cabot Street, Beverly.
Kendra Noyes can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3447, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.