BOSTON - At 26 years old, Ben Blake hasn't known what it's like to not feel sick.
“A normal kid's like ‘oh after practice I’m going to go play soccer with my friends’, and I’m like ‘I’m going to go home and go to the hospital.’ So I just – I don't know it became a part of my life I guess,” he said.
When he was just 7 months old, the Westwood native received his very first liver transplant. It served him well for 26 years, but then it began it fail.
By the end of his time in college, Ben was in and out of the hospital.
“I would work maybe three or four hours and then sleep for two days…I felt like I had been drunk - I felt hung over, sore muscles - but I was like - I haven't been drinking, I know that's not it,” he said.
His condition was deteriorating, but like so many others, Ben couldn't seem to get off the transplant waiting list.
“They put me in the ICU and they put me in a coma, and I still wasn't high enough to get off the list,” he said.
Transplants are given to patients in order of need and time on the list. Ben was given less than one year to live.
“I was seeing the decline, and it was happening right before my eyes,” said Ben’s father, Duane.
Ben's parents tried everything in their power, exhausted every contact and all of their money.
Time was ticking and the options were scarce, but then doctors at Mass General presented Ben and his parents with a radical, experimental idea.
And Ben decided to take a leap of faith because he wasn’t ready to die.
Instead of a healthy liver, doctors gave Ben a liver infected with Hepatitis C - an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver.
Before the transplant, Ben began taking new drugs that have a high success rate of curing Hep C. Doctors were hopeful they could give Ben a new lease on life, without making him sicker.
“The benefit of getting the liver transplant greatly outweighed we thought the small risk of getting Hepatitis C - especially with these new drugs that we have,” said Dr. Parsia Vagefi, associate director of the Liver Transplant Program at MGH.
And, so far, it’s working.
“I just feel like a new person,” said Ben.
It's now been nearly a month since the transplant, and Ben's doctors say he has an excellent prognosis.
Ben is already making plans for a career in baseball scouting.
To learn more about Ben’s journey and how the community has rallied around him, go to http://benblake.org
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