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When Sarah Gorsline and Alita Malinowski met as teenagers 18 years ago, they clicked instantly.
They did not know then that they would share one more gift that would save Gorsline's life – part of Malinowski's liver.
As a 36-year-old, Gorsline seemed to have the perfect life: a loving husband, a national business career, two healthy children and lots of friends and family.
But Gorsline also had Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a rare illness from unknown causes, that results in severe pain, vomiting, infections, liver damage and death. There is no cure. A liver transplant is the only life-prolonging treatment for patients with the advanced disease.
The Living Liver Donor Program at Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network is the largest and among the best programs in North America, exceeding accepted U.S. benchmarks for one-year up to 10-year survival of recipients.
A living liver donor was Gorsline's best bet since she was too healthy to be considered urgently for a deceased donor liver, and yet sick enough to need a transplant.
A friend's gift
Malinowski, 37, who has two children, was happy to step in.
"I watched Sarah getting sicker and sicker. And even though she tried to talk me out of doing this, I felt that it was a gift that I could help her. It made me feel good to give."
Gorsline's transplant, with about 66 per cent of Malinowski's liver, went ahead on January 29, 2014. With her generous donation, Malinowski saved two lives: Gorsline's and a stranger's who will get the liver on the deceased donor's list that was to have been Gorsline's.
Malinowski's gift to Gorsline means that she can watch her children grow up, celebrate their birthdays and graduations, and be the wife and person she wants to be.