Apu’s Story: A Gift Threefold

Life was good for Apurva Patel or “Apu” as those close to him call him until the summer of 2017. It was then that Apu noticed he felt fatigued on his 10-minute walks to the gym. “I figured maybe I was just feeling lazy because I didn’t want to work out,” Apu laughed. So, he would shrug it off and proceed to work out with his trainer.

But later that year, Apu noticed he was still gaining weight despite maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He was also experiencing persistent swelling in his abdomen and legs. Apu, who was 43 years old at the time, was referred to several different specialists in the greater Washington, D.C. area to determine what might be going on. “At that point, I was a little freaked out because everyone told me to go see someone else. Nobody had answers and I was just getting more and more tired.”

Finally, a cardiologist diagnosed Apu with cardiomyopathy, a disease that makes it hard for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. He immediately received treatment but with no significant improvement, he was admitted to the hospital in the summer of 2018 for one week and lost 22 lbs. of fluid with the help of diuretics. Unfortunately, during his hospital stay, Apu was diagnosed with liver cancer and required a lifesaving liver transplant.

His physicians attempted to strengthen his heart with medications and a pacemaker so he could undergo a liver transplant, but in early 2019, it was determined that his heart was too weak.

To survive, Apu now needed a new liver and heart. His cardiologist referred him to a transplant surgeon at UChicago Medicine, who also recommended a kidney transplant because Apu’s kidneys were also damaged. In April, Apu was admitted to the hospital in Chicago with hopes that he might get a call that a heroic deceased organ donor was a match and would gift him with a liver, heart and kidney.

In June 2019, Apu became the 20th person in the United States (U.S.) to receive a triple organ transplant. “This gift has transformed my life. I get to continue to be a father to my teenage boys and watch them grow up.”

He has since returned to D.C. where he lives with his wife and two sons. Apu finds fulfillment in his career. For 25 years, he worked in more than 30 countries in Latin America and Africa strengthening communities and today is focused on improving public health outcomes in the U.S.

Recently, Apu completed the official training to become a Donate Life Ambassador with Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) to educate people in the community about the critical importance of being an organ donor. “I want to recognize that my organ donor was part of a family that was so self-sacrificing. A part of [their] family member lives on and contributes to ongoing impact in this world.”

Be part of the miracle. Register today to save lives as an organ and tissue donor.