Manitoba Junior Leaguer
Former MJHL’er Husband Gives Ultimate Gift of Love
08/21/2015, 12:00pm CDT
By Dauphin Herald
The Dauphin Herald recently published an excellent article about former MJHLer Benji Husband and his wife. The MJHL thanks the Herald for sharing this article with all our fans.
Husband played for the Dauphin Kings and Winnipeg Saints.
Husband gives ultimate gift of love
By M.A. Nyquist
Dauphin Herald Reporter
As husband and wife, a couple is expected to share many things, but Benji Husband is making the ultimate contribution to his wife Lisa.
In a month or two, Benji will donate 60 per cent of his liver to Lisa, who suffers from primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
In 2004 when Lisa was 16, he explained, she experienced severe abdominal issues. Not knowing what was wrong, Lisa quietly dealt with the symptoms for about a year before she saw a doctor and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
The teenager suffered with it for a couple of more years before she had surgery to remove her large intestine.
Lisa was given a J-pouch, Benji said, which attached to her small intestine and worked as a large intestine.
“And then what happened there is, it got infected quite bad,” he said, adding some of the ulcerative colitis had remained attached,
triggering autoimmune hepatitis.
As a result, Lisa contracted PSC.
“It’s an incurable disease of the liver,” Benji said. “And now we’re at a stage where that’s escalated into total cirrhosis of the liver.”
The ultimate treatment for PSC, he explained, is a liver transplant. Lisa’s damaged liver will be removed and part of her husband’s liver will be transplanted into her.
Their doctor explained Benji’s liver will immediately start regenerating after surgery and grow to 80 per cent of its former mass within four weeks.
“It will be working at full capacity, but it will actually only end up growing to 80 per cent,” he added.
Lisa’s new liver will also grow to 80 per cent, Benji said, but it will take at least 10 weeks.
It is rare for a married couple to be a match for organ donation and Benji admitted he was surprised when it was confirmed.
Lisa’s mother Dawn Davis was a partial match, he said, but the anatomy and size of the liver is an important consideration, as well.
“It was so unexpected that I was a match for her,” Benji said, pointing out they grew up different provinces, yet he ended up in Lethbridge, where Lisa was living.
“I’ve always told her that I felt like I had been sent here to save her,” he said, noting since they first met, they have had a strong connection.
The former Dauphinite played with the Dauphin Kings and was traded to OCN where he spent part of a season before he was traded to Winnipeg Saints, where he stayed until the end of his career in junior hockey.
Benji moved to Lethbridge to attend college, completing a diploma in marketing and management.
The 30-year-old met Lisa the year he moved to Lethbridge, as he was dating a girl from Dauphin and moved in with her sister and boyfriend.
“And her boyfriend’s best friend was dating Lisa,” he said, adding they knew each other for about three years before they started dating in 2008, when they were both single again.
They married in July 2011, though Lisa was quite sick at time, just getting out of hospital a week before the wedding.
With Lisa’s illness, the couple was advised they could not have
children, which, Benji said, was heartbreaking news and another reason he is willing to share his liver.
“To give her that chance of having a family and having babies was just one of the top priorities for us,” he explained.
A surgery date has not yet been set, Benji noted, but the couple have been told to anticipate it in late summer or early fall, depending on operating room schedules.
Once the transplant is complete, he said, each of them will require a support person to help them manage day-to-day.
Benji had planned to be Lisa’s support, until he learned he would be the donor. As a result, his mother Loreen Husband and Lisa’s mom will be the support team. Benji expects to be in hospital for about 10 days, with an eight-week recovery, while Lisa will be in hospital much longer.
“And the surgeon said I should not be working for at least three months, due to the nature of the incision,” he said, explaining the wound will travel from his bottom rib, to his belly button and over to the hip bone.
“It’s quite a hefty scar they’re going to leave us with, but at least we’ll be matching.”
Both moms have also co-ordinated a fund-raising campaign for Benji and Lisa. It is awkward for the couple to ask for help, Benji confessed, so their parents teamed up with a plan.
Parkland Crossing agreed to help raise funds, allowing donors to a receive a charitable tax receipt.
Grateful for the support, Benji noted he has been away from Dauphin for a few years, but it will always be his hometown.
“I’ve had so many people reach out in the past few weeks or so,” he said. “And the support is just overwhelming and amazing.”
Their friend Ericka Mason created a gofundme page, called Take Part Of Me. “And we are overwhelmed with gratitude from both sides, of people just stepping up and wanting to help us,” Benji added. “It’s just been absolutely fantastic.”
Take Part Of Me comes from a blog Davis is writing to create awareness of Benji and Lisa and what they are facing together.
“She’s blogging about all of our stories, about how we met and grew up. Sort of to get to know us a little better,” he said, adding it is a way to help people understand why they need support.
While Benji and Lisa’s story is an arduous journey, the couple also want to create awareness of colitis and the need for people with symptoms to deal with it promptly.
“To realize that it’s okay to talk about things,” Benji said, explaining as a teenager, Lisa spent a year not knowing what was wrong with her. “She was experiencing all these horrible things and was embarrassed about it. And couldn’t talk to anybody.”
At 28, he tearfully explained, Lisa has been struggling with her illness for 12 years.
Lisa is an inspiration, Benji said, and wants to raise awareness, so young girls do not suffer in silence. “If they could somehow hear the story and see that she’s strong enough to talk about it, then maybe they can talk about it, too.”
The drugs and care for Crohn’s disease and colitis have advanced so much since Lisa was diagnosed, Benji said, dealing with it sooner, will offer a better prognosis.