Sometimes, law enforcement officers must risk their lives to save others. On June 4, deputy Javier Tiscareno of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did just that — giving part of a vital organ from his own body to save an ailing fellow deputy, Jorge Castro.

Liver transplant

In gratitude, liver transplant recipient Jorge Castro places a hand on the shoulder of fellow sheriff’s deputy and organ donor Javier Tiscareno during a June 11 news conference with faculty physicians Saro Khemichian and Yuri Genyk of Keck Medicine of USC.

The two men took part in a live liver transplant at Keck Hospital of USC during which a portion of Tiscareno’s liver was removed and transplanted into the body of Castro, whose own liver was failing quickly. A week later, both men were healthy enough to walk and talk on their own, sharing their inspirational story with others during an emotional news conference at the hospital on June 11.

Tom Jackiewicz, CEO, Keck Medicine of USC, began the press event by recognizing the extraordinary generosity of Tiscareno’s decision to undergo surgery to benefit his colleague. He noted that the liver transplant program at Keck Medicine of USC is the only program in Southern California performing adult living donor liver transplants. Keck Medicine of USC was among the first to perform the surgery in May 1999. Nearly 300 living donor liver transplants have been performed at USC since then.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell spoke next, praising Tiscareno as a “hero” for volunteering to donate part of his own liver upon learning of Castro’s plight.

Then, two Keck School of Medicine of USC faculty physicians spoke about their roles.

Saro Khemichian, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine and transplant hepatologist, Department of Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, explained the evaluation process related to organ donations and transplants, and he talked about the dire health situation that Castro had been facing.

Yuri Genyk, MD, associate professor of surgery and surgical director of the liver transplant program, Department of Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, then provided details about the operation itself. He explained that live liver transplants are possible because the human liver can regenerate itself from healthy tissue.

Surgeons removed 60 percent of Tiscareno’s liver and implanted it in Castro. Both livers will grow back to their original size. If all goes well, both patients will return to work and other normal activities in about two months.

Tiscareno and Castro then provided details about their personal stories. Castro, a 14-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who works in the custody division at the department’s Twin Towers facility, was suffering from a terminal liver condition.

Finding a suitable match among family members had been unsuccessful. Time was running out.

One day, while exercising together, he related his plight to Tiscareno, an 18-year Sheriff’s Department veteran who also works in Twin Towers Custody. Upon hearing Castro’s story, Tiscereno decided to be tested and soon after learned he was a match.

At first, his wife Carmen Tiscareno was hesitant about the deputy’s decision to become a live organ donor. But over time she came to know more about the situation facing Castro and his wife Edith, and she was reassured about the transplant surgery by the medical professionals at Keck Medicine of USC.

Now, tears flowing freely as she watched her husband finish telling his story, Carmen Tiscerano happily supports Javier’s decision. She is proud of her husband, the hero.

by Douglas Morino