Bob Scozzafava, 65, is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as he celebrates the one-year anniversary of his life-saving liver transplant.
“Every day is a blessing thanks to the generosity of my organ donor hero,” said Bob, who received a successful liver transplant on February 28, 2021. “My health had reached a point where doctors told me ‘if you don’t get a transplant, you are going to die.’ Today, I feel great, and I am enjoying every moment with my family and loved ones.”
Bob and his wife Valerie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in November. Their son Nicholas, 30, and daughter Julia, 27, are thrilled to see their father full of energy and living life to its fullest. The close-knit family, along with about 150 of their friends, came together for Nicholas’ wedding last May, just over two months after Bob’s transplant surgery.
“I really enjoyed dancing up a storm at the wedding,” said Bob. “And I am proud to say that I have powerwalked over 300 miles during my first year post-transplant.”
Bob has also made a priority to serve as a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for the nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents waiting for a transplant.
“My goal is to share my story with others to get more people to register as donors and also help boost the morale of those on the waiting list for transplant,” said Bob. “Volunteering for NJ Sharing Network is also another way for me to honor the memory of my donor hero.”
Bob’s Transplant Journey
Bob’s serious health issues began in 2018 when an endoscopy found varices in his esophagus. In September 2018, further tests indicated that Bob had cirrhosis of the liver caused by a fatty liver (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). As his health declined, he was added to liver transplant lists in the Northeast in June 2019 and later to transplant lists in Florida.
“In addition to my family, I am thankful that I participated in support group discussions on Zoom with transplant recipients and others on the waiting list,” said Bob. “Talking regularly with my mentor inspired me to stay strong.”
On February 27, 2021, Bob and Valerie were at their Florida apartment when they received the phone call that a liver was available for transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. They quickly rushed to the hospital and were greeted at the front door by caring professionals with a wheelchair to help transport Bob to his room.
“I remember that I refused to ride in the wheelchair because my transplant mentor told me that I needed to stay active to help get me ready to walk out on my own two feet after my transplant,” said Bob.
Seven days later, Bob did exactly that.
Bob’s nurses and doctors were surprised that he was able to walk on his own only three days after his transplant. Valerie was also surprised to see Bob standing on his own the next morning after his transplant.
“Prior to my transplant, I was suffering a great deal. I had extremely painful cramps in my legs from my ankles up to my thighs,” said Bob. “After my transplant, it was wild! All my leg cramps were completely gone immediately, and I have never had them since. My transplant proved to be a perfect match.”
Bob wrote a heartfelt thank you letter that he gave to a local organ procurement organization (OPO) in Florida to deliver to the family of his deceased liver donor. Bob was overjoyed when the OPO forwarded correspondence back from his donor’s husband and discovered his donor was a married mother of four.
“He wrote that my letter and words of gratitude helped take away a great deal of his sadness,” said Bob. “Our families are now forever linked through the gift of life.”