With Thanksgiving just around the corner, one Grosse Pointe Shores man is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the living donor liver transplant that saved his life as well as the donor who made it all possible: his brother-in-law.
Dave Galbenski, 51, was battling the rare autoimmune disease Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, and doctors reportedly told him he would die without a transplant. Galbenski said he was put on the liver transplant list on National Organ Day in February of 2019.
“The only way I was able to live long term was to explore getting a new liver,” said Galbenski. “I just leaned on my faith . . . at that point.”
After it was determined Galbenski needed a transplant to survive, his brother-in-law, Mark Dybis said he went to work to see if he could be a possible donor. The good news came in September 2019 and Dybis told Galbenski he would be the donor for the transplant at Henry Ford Hospital.
"You could only imagine the emotions that I felt at that point, certainly lots of tears, lots of joy, lots of relief — and in a pre-COVID time, lots of hugs," said Galbenski.
A spokesperson for Henry Ford Health System said Dybis donated 65 percent of his liver to Galbenski the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019.
“I didn’t look back, it’s something that needed to be done. Life has value,” said Dybis.
Dybis said he was also warned about doing the transplant close to the holiday last year, but to him that didn't matter.
“It was more like ‘Thanksgiving be damned; this man needs a liver!’ he said in a press release.
Henry Ford Health System said they created the Henry Ford Center for Living Donation, which focuses on the specialized care for the donor – as well as the recipient – for these types of procedures.
"I view it as clearly the gift of life, but moreover, I kind of looked at it as gift of moments, moments that I’ll be able to have in the future," said Galbenski.
This year, the pair plans to celebrate the transplant anniversary via a Zoom call on Thanksgiving.
To read more about becoming an organ donor, click here.