He’s The Oldest Liver Transplant Recipient

When Bruce Anderson was denied by other hospitals, he traveled from California to Indiana to receive a liver transplant at IU Health.

They said he was too old. But Bruce Anderson wasn’t taking “No” for an answer. It’s typical of who he is. At 79, he still practices medicine, hikes and plays tennis.

When he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) there was no other answer. He needed a liver transplant. PSC is a chronic, long-term disease that slowly damages the bile ducts of the liver. It travels through the bile ducts to the gall bladder and small intestine. Many patients may have the disease for years and not know it. Symptoms may come and go and progress gradually until liver failure occurs 10-15 years after diagnosis.

Anderson was diagnosed Dec. 20, 2016. He and his wife Audrey will be married 56 years in December. They have three children and three grandchildren. The couple met while both were undergraduate students at Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif. The private liberal arts college is located in Napa Valley – their home. Audrey is a nurse who has practiced in OB/GYN with Stanford Health; Bruce practices psychiatric medicine.

In part, due to their experience in the medical field, they knew there was a means to an end. They were sure they could find a hospital that would accept Bruce as a transplant patient.

“Everyone said Bruce was too old and wouldn’t even bother looking at him,” said Audrey. That is until they met with Dr. Paul Kwo, Professor of Medicine and Director of Hepatology at Stanford University. He knew both Drs. Shekhar Kubal and Marco Lacerda with the IU Health transplant team.

IU Health’s liver transplant program – the only one in the state – has been ranked fifth for volume of surgeries in the United States. Last year, 151 liver transplants were completed at IU Health including 139 adult surgeries and 12 pediatric surgeries. 

“I can’t say enough about the team at IU Health. They are world-class from top to bottom,” said Bruce. “They recruit great people who are dedicated professionals,” added his wife. 

Bruce was added to the transplant list August 24 and was transplanted on October 13. During his recover the couple is staying with friends in Ohio. Bruce said he is getting stronger every day and plans to return to his routine of hiking, playing tennis, traveling and practicing medicine. He also plans to do some public speaking about his experience with transplantation and IU Health.

“No one knows the cause of PSC. We have always been teetotalers and lived a healthy life, but when you need a new liver, you need a new liver,” said Bruce. “I guess some places just felt they should use those precious organs to save someone who has more life left to live. I am proud to be known as the oldest recipient at IU Health and possibly the oldest recipient in the nation. I hope it breaks some of the stereotypes about transplantation.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.