Meet our 2021 Liver Life Walk Coast to Coast Champions
Team Name: Stephanie’s Gift
Peter Cullen is an entrepreneur, angel investor, and media executive, who served in senior leadership and strategy roles with both major entertainment and start-up companies.
Liver disease came into Peter’s life at the age of 37, when he was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). As the PSC progressed, Peter developed Cholangiocarcinoma and received an immediate lifesaving Living-Donor liver transplant, thanks to Peter’s younger brother Timothy bravely volunteering to grant the “gift of life.” Unfortunately, the donated liver failed to thrive, resulting in a decade of ongoing surgeries and interventions to remain functional. The donated liver eventually developed recurrent PSC and again Peter needed a liver transplant. In late 2016, Peter received a second liver transplant from a deceased donor named Stephanie who died suddenly and unexpectedly. Stephanie was a wife, a mother of two young children, and a nurse who dedicated her life to working with special needs children. Stephanie saved Peter’s life and the lives of two other people in her final act of altruism and love as an organ donor.
Team Name: In Memory of Arty
Melissa sought to get involved in the Liver Life Walk when her brother was diagnosed with liver cancer three weeks before passing on November 29, 2014. Words cannot express how much this significantly affected her family as it transpired so quickly. Sadly, there was not a great deal anyone could do with the disease being so far advanced. Melissa wanted to honor her brother and find ways to help others in his memory. As a team, “In Memory of Arty”, walks each year to help raise awareness and fight to end this horrible disease.
Team Name: Jess’s Lucky Livers
In June 2014 at the age of 30, Jess was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis after several months of worsening fatigue and itching. PBC is an autoimmune disease where the small bile ducts in the liver are attacked and start stiffening up, which can lead to scarring or fibrosis of the liver. Jess started on ursodiol but did not respond to the medication. By November 2014, her gastroenterologist referred her to a transplant center and hepatologist. Luckily after meeting with transplant teams at Vanderbilt and IU Health she was assured she had some time before needing a transplant and that new medications were coming out soon that would help. During the Spring of 2015, her hepatologist at IU recommended she join a research study for people with PBC for a new medication coming out. Jess met all the criteria for the study and was enrolled. While at IU Health she saw an advertisement for the American Liver Foundation Liver Life Walk and decided to sign up.