, Gloucester, MA

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December 12, 2010

'A perfect match' in more ways than one

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."

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