MILWAUKEE -- A woman visiting Milwaukee from out-of-state is grateful for doctors at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center -- who kept her alive long enough to get a transplant. The treatment is rare and unconventional. It is used for patients experiencing liver failure.
Side-by-side images show Diane Wing's end-stage liver failure due to Hepatitis C -- and a healthy liver after the transplant in July.
Transplant doctors said she was only healthy enough to become eligible thanks to the MARS Machine. MARS stands for molecular absorbents recirculating system. It essentially washes a patient's blood of toxins.
"This device is designed to not only do dialysis for your kidneys, but also dialysis for your liver," said Dr. Ajay Sahajpal, director of transplant services at Aurora.
Dr. Ajay Sahajpal
The machine was initially designed to allow the liver to heal and prevent some patients from needing a transplant.
Wing was hospitalized for Hepatitis C when she was visiting the area from Texas. She was hooked up to the MARS Machine for 22 hours a day, and was barley conscious.
"I was here in the hospital for four months and probably the last month is when I became more aware of people and certain nurses," said Wing.
According to Dr. Sahajpal, only one other transplant center in the country has taken this approach -- located in Maryland.
The treatment healed Wing enough to get a liver and kidney transplant.
"It saved my life, basically," said Wing.
Aurora Health Care has a Hepatitis C screening program, They have tested more than 35,000 patients. More than 600 have tested positive and are now receiving treatment.
Doctors say Baby Boomers are most at risk for Hepatitis C. They say often people don't realize they have the disease until they suffer a flare up, like in Wing's case.