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True love’s sacrifice: Living liver donor saves her fiancé's life

Georgia couple shares their experience after a rare liver cancer diagnosis and transplant surgery involving new robotic technology at VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center.

Couple stands together smiling outside of a hospital building. Jessica Garrett donated part of her liver to then-boyfriend Shannon “Christ” Harris. The couple are now engaged and are all smiles after fully recovering from their surgeries at VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center. (VCU Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Caroline Ward

Christ Harris was living in constant pain. The pain was ultimately linked to an extremely rare liver cancer.

Despite treatment involving a liver resection, the cancer returned, and doctors in his home-state of Georgia told him his only viable option was a transplant from a living liver donor. Christ’s fiancée, Jess Garrett, stepped up to be his living donor.

Due to the complexity of the surgery, they were referred to VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center several hours away in Richmond, Virginia.

Time was of the essence to get Christ transplanted. The procedures were scheduled for June 2023. Jess says their Hume-Lee care team wanted to do everything possible to improve Christ’s health and well-being. Jess was worried they were too late, and that once they were in surgery, providers would find Christ’s cancer too advanced to perform the transplant.

When she awoke after the procedure, she still wasn’t positive a portion of her liver had been removed.

“I [woke] up and don't see anything at all, and I'm thinking, I didn't get the surgery?” Jess recalled.

The reason being – the surgery was fully robotic, meaning there were smaller incisions, and as a result, Jess could expect a faster recovery. Fortunately, the surgeries were successful for both Christ and Jess.

Fast-forward to January 2024, the couple returned to Hume-Lee for their six-month follow-up appointment. Christ and Jess are both feeling great, and you can tell they are still in awe of the whole experience.

David Bruno, M.D., FACS, Christ’s surgeon and interim chair at Hume-Lee, stopped by to check on his patient. Bruno beamed when he saw they were both doing so well.

Bruno says moments like these are what keep him coming to work every day.

When asked if the couple has made any wedding plans yet, Christ said, “It's gonna be very cool.” “It's gonna be a very, very eccentric wedding,” Jess added.