Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Today MaGreen and I found ourselves intently studying this diagram of the liver, the kidney, spleen, stomach, and esophagus. The diagram highlights how the veins filter the blood flow through the liver. If a person's liver becomes severely scarred – say, after a lifetime of alcoholism – pressure builds and blood backs up through to the little ones lining the organs. The veins around the esophagus, stomach, and other organs expand, leak, and even explode, causing terminal or nearly terminal bleeds. Look closely at the liver in the diagram and you will see a white tube that represents an artificial "shunt." This tube bypasses the liver and the blood in the veins shoots directly to the heart. Radiologists can place this by going through the jugular. So it's a relatively simple, non-invasive procedure. The name for the procedure, TIPS, has an optimistic hint to it, as if the doctors are letting you in on a wonderful secret. But it in no way saves the liver. Just buys time. Unfortunately, our interest in all this isn't academic. MaGreen's stepmother, the woman who helped raise her from the age of four on, was just transferred by ambulance from one hospital to a bigger one so this procedure can be done to her.

I'll let MaGreen write about her family. But I have been wanting to post a new entry to our blog and since our blog started off as a chronicle detoxifying our lives for our baby girl, how can we not write about what has happened? How can we leave out that our baby's grandmother voluntarily poisoned her own liver, slowly, over the course of three and a half decades? If you are the praying kind, pray for MaGreen's family. If you are the agnostic kind, hope.


Anonymous said...

I'm hoping for you. xoxo, Julie

Anonymous said...

Julie let me know about this post. I'm very sorry to hear about your Step Mom and pray the surgery goes well.

My Mum passed away from liver cirrosis after years of alcoholism last October, so I know a lot about the progression of liver illness.

What I can say that, if the damage were "too severe," there would be no way that the doctors would suggest this TIPS surgery due to the possibility of internal bleeding, etc. The fact that they see a way to "buy more time" is hopeful because based on my experience, they wouldn't attempt without the possibility of success.

It's not often that someone can say they really know how you feel, but I do and I offer you any support I can. Feel free to email me with any questions you might have.

Kate (

quixoticmama said...

So sad :(

Much hope and possible energy to Miahs' stepmother.

My father died of lung cancer when I was 14, and to this day my mother still smokes around 1-2 packs a day. She's had SEVEN heart attacks. She has emphysema. She continues to consciouslly poison herself....I don't understand it.

Here's hoping that she does very well :)

Diana said...

Oh, my! I am so sorry! I will definately pray for a good outcome!

GreenDaddy said...

Thank you for your comments. Miah's stepmom is doing better, but still in the hospital and quite sick.

Minnie said...

Did she receive the TIPS procedure yet?
My father is suffering from cirrosis and myelofibrosis. Myelofibrosis is a rare bone marrow disease. Due to the myelofibrosis, he is not a candidate to receive a liver transplant. Not to mention, he is in the end stages and yet the physicians still have not informed him of his cirrosis yet. So, I know how Miah feels. The TIPS procedure was mentioned to me by his gastroenterologist Yesterday. I read up on it and as a child, I want to take every opportunity and try it out. So, I'm going to find out more about it and convince my dad to go thur with this if it means more time with us.........without him suffering. I'm sorry to know that another human being is going thru this. Please keep us posted with your mother in law's condition.

GreenDaddy said...

Minnie, my sympathy for you and your father. My mother-in-law had the TIPS procedure about one month ago and she is, on the whole, doing better. At the time, she had potentially fatal symptoms from her failing liver, like heavy bleeding in her stomach and throat. The TIPS procedure ended those problems. She stabalized and was able to leave the ICU. Although the bleeding stopped and the fluid build-up lessened significantly, her dinginess (or encephalopathy as the doctors say) did not go away.

Right now, my mother-in-law is staying in a rehab/nursing home. She can now walk a little using a walker. But because of the encephalopathy, the insurance company does not consider her eligible for further rehab and she will soon be sent home. I am pretty amazed by how well she is doing considering that she nearly died right in front of me. At the same time, her situation seems very bleak.

Anonymous said...

my brother-in-law was just rushed to the hospital for the upteenth time although this time he has been coughing up blood and disoriented which was the only way they could get him to the hospital (he was refusing to go)a chronic alcoholic...i pray that God takes him quickly now...his drinking has caused so much pain and suffering in this family...i just wish they all find a little peace. had a conversation with my sister-in-law (no his wife) about just how much we want the doctors to do for him...does anyone have experience at this stage...don't believe the family has any living wills or a dnr..

GreenDaddy said...

My sympathy for you and your family. You asked if anyone has had experience with the stage your brother-in-law is at. I think the hardest thing about it is that you never quite know what stage someone is at.

I definitely listened to and participated in conversations about what was reasonable intervention for my mother-in-law. There is always this question that comes up in America, "Should every possible invasive medical procedure be done when the sick person's ultimate decline seems inevitable?" If the person is an alcoholic, the question is even more tortured.

One doctor basically told us that there are many ways to die from liver failure and that coughing up blood is one of the worst. So the TIPS procedure was done with two minds. It was palliative in that it addressed the most horrible of her symptoms. The procedure also extended her life. My mother-in-law is living at home now with my father-in-law. I haven't seen her for months and I won't hazard a guess at her current "habits." But she certainly hasn't induced another trip to the hospital. So, in her case, I think surgical intervention was the right way to go.

It's really hard for me to tell if your brother-in-law is at a similar point to where my mother-in-law was, or if he is further gone. My sincere wishes for the best possible outcome for your family whatever that may mean.