Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

August 10, 2013

A new transplant, a changed life

TRAVERSE CITY — Keith Schaub turned the color of gold a few days before he received a life-saving liver transplant at University of Michigan Hospital.

“My jaundice rating was up to 57. Normal people are less than one,” Schaub said.

Schaub, 35, now looks healthier, thanks to an emergency liver transplant in mid-June. But he can’t return yet to his Internet marketing company, and he’s extremely susceptible to germs. Doctors are suppressing his immune system entirely for three months so his body won’t reject the new liver.

Yet Schaub said his toughest challenge is accepting help from his close circle of family and friends.

“I’ve been really independent, more of the one to help out,” he said. “I’m grateful, but it’s weird to sit back.”

Schaub and his wife Megan talked about his medical journey and a fundraiser set for today on the porch of their rural Interlochen house that he built 15 years ago.

Schaub said this is his second round with a serious disease. In 2006, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis after his autoimmune system attacked his large intestine.

“My surgeon has done 1,000 procedures, and said this was the worst case he’d ever seen,” Schaub said. “He was surprised to see I could function in my life, if that gives you an idea of my tolerance to pain. I don’t let things get in my way.”

Schaub fully recovered after two surgeries and life long ago resumed to normal. But last September, his skin turned yellow and pain stabbed his abdomen area.

“It felt like 150 pounds of pressure trying to burst through your guts,” he said. “And then it would pass.”

An area specialist diagnosed him with primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC – an inflammatory disease that hardens and scars the liver ducts. He thought Schaub would need a liver transplant in about 10 years and recommended he visit the University of Michigan Hospital.

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