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Dr Ryan Wesley Arnold

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Dr Ryan Wesley Arnold

  • Birth 19 Sep 1975 Watertown, Codington County, South Dakota, USA
  • Death 2 Aug 2010 Aurora, Adams County, Colorado, USA
  • Burial Watertown, Codington County, South Dakota, USA
  • Memorial ID 57003254

Donor dies after liver transplant at CU Hospital
Ginger Delgado Reporter
August 12, 2010

AURORA, Colo. - A man who agreed to donate part of his liver to help save his brother died just four days after the transplant procedure at The University of Colorado Hospital.

It's the first death of a living liver donor in Colorado and only the fourth in the U.S.

The death has led to a temporary halt of all live donor liver transplants at The University of Colorado Hospital. The hospital has also launched an investigation into what went wrong.

It has reported the death to the Colorado Department of Public Health, which is conducting its own investigation.

Ryan Arnold, 34, of Watertown, South Dakota died on August 2nd, just four days after his brother, Chad, 38, of Castle Rock, received part of his liver. Chad Arnold invited FOX31 to document their story, when it took a devastating turn.

This is their story friendship, faith and the ultimate sacrifice.

We met the brothers at 5:30 a.m. on July 29th in the waiting room at the University of Colorado Hospital. They were both in good spirits and surrounded by their parents, wives and siblings who were there for support.

By 6:00 a.m., Ryan and Chad were being prepped for surgery.

Chad was overcome with emotion as he told us about the day he learned his brother's liver was a perfect match.

"It was a very humbling experience," said Chad. "Ryan called me and said, 'I'm a match.' And you feel a lot of things at that point. Relief, gratefulness to God and to Ryan. And after that you wrestle with a lot of guilt, like I really don't want to bring him through this. But he shut me up pretty fast and said, 'Well, you would do it for me, wouldn't you?'"

Chad had PSC, a disease of the liver for which there's no cure. His symptoms were getting worse -- the itching, fatigue and jaundice. He was in the final stages of liver failure, his condition was deteriorating and he needed a liver fast.

A living donor was his only hope, so his brother Ryan stepped in.

"You know, I love Chad. He's my brother and he's got a lot of life left to live," Ryan told us as he was being prepped for the procedure. "I'm healthy and I know I'll stay healthy. I'll recover and I want to see him do the things he wants to do, and spend time with his family, and I want to have him around for a long time."

Little was said as the brothers said goodbye to each in the surgery room. They hugged and smiled, but didn't speak much.

Ryan's surgery was first as they quickly whisked him away. Within minutes, the procedure began with a team of doctors who carefully removed 60 percent of Ryan's healthy liver, while Chad patiently waited and shared his thoughts with us.

"The thing I've learned through all this is that God writes the story. It's not my story to write. Ryan's the hero and I'm just playing my part. He's the real hero," Chad told us.

Once the organ was removed from Ryan, it was carefully rinsed and carried next door to be transplanted into Chad after his diseased liver was removed.

Doctor Igal Kam performed the surgery on Ryan.

"We have two brothers here today and one of them is very sick and probably can't hold on for too much longer," Dr. Kam told us. "It's hard for him with his disease to get to the top of the transplant list. But his brother came around and said he would give him part of his liver. It's that kind of generosity that's wonderful to see because he'll probably save his brother's life."

Deaths of living donors are rare -- about .5 to 1 percent, but the surgery is still risky. While both livers will regenerate and grow back to their original size, if too much is removed or something goes wrong, it's the donor whose life is at risk.

"It's still a very controversial surgery in the United States. There have been a few deaths of donors, healthy people who gave part of their liver and didn't make it. But I think we're very careful in selecting our donors and the chances of it happening here are very, very low," Dr. Kam said with confidence.

In the initial days following the procedure, both men were recovering at different rates. Ryan's family says one minute Chad was doing better, and then Ryan, and vice versa.

On July 30, Ryan was moved out of the Intensive Care Unit. The next day, on the evening of July 31, he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, lapsed into a coma and was placed on life support.

He died two days later, on Aug. 2.

Ryan Arnold was healthy, active and strong. He was a husband and father of three little boys, ages 1, 4 and 6.

Chad is now recovering at home. He's tired and weak, but otherwise doing well.

He described to us how he first learned of his brother's death.

"My dad came to my hospital room and grabbed my feet. He leaned forward and said, 'I've got some bad news." He was holding back the tears. "Ryan's gone, but we still serve a good God.' He couldn't have said it better," Chad told us.

Ryan gave Chad the gift of life, a gift which led to his own death. And because of that, Chad refuses to place the focus on himself.

"This is a story about a man who is deeply convicted by his faith and because of that, what he did for me was just sort of a normal thing that he did for people. Ryan is the hero in this," Chad says.

And while there's a huge scar on the outside, there's one on the inside as well. Chad is now committed to living his life the way Ryan lived his: with faith, compassion and humility.

"Ryan gave without hesitation. It's the ultimate sacrifice, but he'd do it again."

Ryan Arnold was buried on August 9 in Watertown, South Dakota. He's survived by his wife Shannon and three young boys, his parents and three siblings.

An autopsy has been completed but the cause of Ryan's death is still pending.

The University of Colorado has released a statement to FOX31 which read:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Ryan Arnold, a beloved husband, father, son, brother and friend. We too, came to know him and the whole Arnold family as a wonderful group of generous souls. Ryan's passing is heartbreaking for his family, The University of Colorado Hospital and the entire community. We have all lost someone special. Despite the risks, Ryan selflessly made the decision to give part of his liver to his brother Chad. We will learn everything we can from this to keep making the phenomenal gift of transplant safe for donors as well as recipients. We will continue working to improve this vital, life-changing program, which pioneered liver transplants 40 years ago. Ryan's passing will not be in vain."

The first live liver transplant in Colorado was done in 1997 at The University of Colorado Hospital. A total of 141 similar procedures have been performed there since 1997.

The Arnold family has set up an educational fund for Ryan's three young sons. For more information, go to: or

The most recent live liver transplant death in the U.S. was at Lahey Clinic in Boston in May 2010. The man who died had donated part of his liver to a relative. It was the first live liver donor death at that hospital, which has transplanted more livers from living donors than any other U.S. Hospital.

The first live liver transplant in Colorado was done in 1997 at The University of Colorado Hospital. A total of 141 similar procedures have been performed there since 1997.

Source: FOX News KDVR

Dr. Ryan W. Arnold, 34, died Monday, Aug. 2, 2010, at the University Hospital in Aurora, Colo.

Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Monday at the Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Watertown with the Rev. Steve Ferguson officiating. Burial is at Mt. Hope Cemetery followed by the funeral lunch at the Foursquare Church in Watertown.

Family requests memorials be designated to the Ryan and Shannon Arnold Children's Trust, P.O. Box 231, Watertown, 57201, (or drop off at any Great Western Bank). This will benefit the children's education plus a portion will also be used to construct a fresh water well for an impoverished African community in Ryan's name.

Visitation is Sunday, from 2-6 p.m. at the Wight, Comes & Sogn Funeral Chapel in Watertown.

Ryan Wesley Arnold was born on Sept. 19, 1975 in Watertown to Robert Armand and Judith Dawn (Lee) Arnold.

He grew up in Watertown and graduated from Watertown High School in 1994. He attended Oral Roberts University and obtained his bachelor of science degree. Ryan then attended the University of Minnesota where he received his doctor of dentist surgery and after that he graduated from the Vanderbilt University in orthodontics. Ryan married Shannon Lorraine Strande on July 12, 1997 at Lake Poinsett. He was currently in partnership with Arnold Orthodontics in Watertown.

He loved spending time with his family, especially activities with his boys. He also enjoyed hunting, fishing, waterskiing, snowmobiling and golfing.

He is survived by his wife, Shannon; their three children, Graham Douglas, Owen Robert and Oliver Ryan; his parents, Robert and Judith Arnold of Watertown and his siblings, Rod (Michelle) Arnold of New York, Janelle (Darren) Zander of Steamboat, Colo., and Chad (Cristine) Arnold of Castlerock, Colo.

He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Wesley Arnold; and his uncle, Ron Arnold. Source