Midwestern University recently welcomed Michael Hagan, D.O., M.H.S.A., (CCOM 1974), to speak to students about the importance of organ donation. The campus group, Students for Organ Donation, invited Dr. Hagan to share his unique and moving experience as a liver transplant recipient. Dr. Hagan is also the Director of Quality Improvement and Regulatory Compliance for Gift of Life-Michigan.
After graduating from CCOM, Dr. Hagan began his career as an Emergency Room physician in Michigan. For nearly 10 years he enjoyed his work until he contracted hepatitis B from a patient in the ER. "At the time we didn't wear gowns, gloves, or goggles," Dr. Hagan told the audience. "I urge all of you to use the universal protection that is available."
His disease made it impossible for him to continue his career as a physician and it soon became apparent that his only treatment option was a liver transplant. He waited 24 months for transplant surgery. His doctors informed him that at the time of surgery his liver only weighed half a pound as opposed to the typical four to five pounds. "The surgery went very well and when I recovered I felt a renewed sense of energy and vitality that I haven't felt for years. Without the transplant surgery, I would have had less than one week to live," he said.
After his surgery, Dr. Hagan felt compelled to thank the donor family for making his life possible. Donor confidentiality rules are very strict and require that both the donors and recipients remain anonymous. Dr. Hagan wrote an anonymous letter which was delivered to the family by the Gift of Life organization. His initial letter was not answered. However, Dr. Hagan did not give up and the story about his search for his donor family could easily be a movie plot involving incredible strokes of luck, a horrific murder of an innocent bystander, and courtroom drama. While remaining respectful of donor confidentially, Dr. Hagan was eventually able to thank his donor family in person and remains in contact with them to this day.
"It's been 13 years since my transplant. Just the fact that I wake up every day, I say thank you to God and to my donor family," he shared.
In light of his own recovery and the work he does on behalf of Gift of Life, Dr. Hagan has made it his life's purpose to promote organ donation. He has appeared with his donor family on ABC's Good Morning America and is popular speaker sharing his story with groups throughout the United States. Dr. Hagan urged everyone in attendance to join the organ donor registry. Members of the Illinois-based Gift of Hope were available after the talk to register potential donors. "Currently there are 114,000 people waiting for an organ transplant and on average only 8,000 donors in a year," he said. "The gap gets wider each year. There is an urgent need to increase organ donation."