Yi Jia, IU masters student from China, urgently needs a portion of a living donor’s liver to treat his stage four colon cancer, which spread to his liver.
Jia’s wife Shiqiao Wang said Jia was diagnosed October 2020, after she brought him into the emergency room for a fever and abdominal pain. The symptoms were caused by a cancer tumor that spread to his liver and is unremovable, she said. Jia has undergone chemotherapy to control the spread of cancer cells to his other organs, Wang said.
Wang said Jia is left with just one opportunity to survive: a living donor with an A or O blood type to donate part of their healthy liver to replace Jia’s liver.
“This is the only chance to be cured of his terrible disease, but his window is closing,” Wang said.
Wang said Jia’s doctors told them chemotherapy can only prevent the spread of Jia’s cancer for nine months. Jia is seven months into chemotherapy, leaving only six weeks to get a transplant.
Wang said Jia was selected as a candidate for liver transplant in early September.
“Before that, there was no hope,” Jia said. "It was just a matter of time, but after they presented this plan, we feel like there's all of a sudden a hope to be cured completely.”
If he receives a donor, Jia’s transplant would be performed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. According to the hospital, the operation poses some risk to the donor. The liver can regenerate, so both parties usually have fully functioning livers after a successful transplant. Donors’ livers typically grow back to normal size within six to eight weeks of surgery, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
The hospital has a 100% survival rate for living liver donors, according to its website. Donors must be 18 to 55-years-old in good health and have a compatible blood type to the recipient.
Jia said his diagnosis is the worst thing that could have happened after he came to IU from China with Wang in 2019. Jia said he left his job in China to pursue a masters degree in education, so he can improve educational opportunities for underprivileged children.
Jia said he is most concerned not about himself but for his family.
“When I was diagnosed with this disease, I think I tried to control my emotions for Shiqiao, my wife, and for my family,” Jia said. “I'm the single child of my family, so it's really bad news for them.”
David Rutkowski, an IU School of Education professor who works closely with Jia, said he recently found out about his situation and is helping to share his request.
“Yi’s just one of the sweetest, gentlest, kindest people,” Rutkowski said. “He always has the biggest smile.”
IU can live up to its values by helping Jia’s cause, Rutkowski said, and the IU community should make a commitment to supporting international students in times such as these.
Rutkowski said he is hopeful Jia will receive a liver transplant. He said if Jia does, he will make the world a better place because of it.
“He just needs one match,” he said. “It can happen. Someone may do it.”
Those interested in donating can contact Vicki Garcia, NMH donor transplant coordinator, at 312-695-0340 or visit www.nm.org/livertransplantation.
For more information or to share Jia’s request visit www.liverforyi.com, @liverforyi on Facebook or @findaliverforyi on Instagram.