Carson man comes back from death’s door with zeal
April 15, 2003
To encourage his body’s acceptance of his transplanted liver, Paul Saucedo says he sometimes speaks to his organs.
“I’ll look down at the scar I’ve got and say ‘Hey, guys, you know, body, this is part of us now. It’s not foreign to us — we’re going to use this gift.'”
Saucedo uses that gift to give back. The retired Department of Transportation engineer leads a liver transplant support group at Carson Tahoe Hospital.
“Paul is just the nicest man I’ve ever met in my life,” said Kim Clementi, who attends the group with her husband, Vic.
Saucedo and his family have been through tough times since he was told he needed a transplant in 1989.
When his liver failed, toxins built up in his bloodstream and poisoned his brain, making him aggressive.
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“I was so sick I didn’t know my wife. I didn’t know my children,” he said. “I was threatening to them. And that makes me want to cry because I love my family.”
Saucedo has a real-life understanding that no training or guidebook could provide.
“Every person who has had a transplant has been so close to death,” he said. “And it’s a terrible thing, but you have to be honest with (new members of the support group) and you have to be blunt with them.”
During his monthly meetings, patients ask Saucedo about symptoms.
“They’ll say, you know, ‘I’m getting this swelling in my abdomen — what’s happening to me? My feet are swollen — what’s happening to me? My gums are bleeding — what’s happening to me?'”
Another topic is faith.
When Saucedo got sick, he read a 1,000-page book on transplants and learned that surviving the operation was not guaranteed.
“So I know that if you don’t have that little glimmer of fire in you that is a belief in a higher power, it hurts you.”
Support is the most important thing for people facing a liver transplant, Saucedo said. If a patient doesn’t have a very loving person to support them through their ordeal, they will not be considered for a transplant, he said.
Patients in the depths of liver failure can develop an empty stare like a combat soldier who has faced the horrors of war, he said.
“That’s why it’s so important for them to know (the support group) is here.”
Saucedo used to pray for the chance to raise his 10-year-old son, David. Now 21, David plans to enroll at the University of Nevada, Reno, next semester to study teaching.
“I am so pleased that he wants to be a teacher,” said his father. “What a noble profession.”
Now Saucedo hopes for a chance to see his grandchildren.
“And I know I will.”
But eight years after the surgery, Saucedo’s positive attitude is tempered with realism.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said. “But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”