BOUNTIFUL -- After receiving two liver transplants three weeks apart, Chad Freckleton considers himself to be a walking miracle. The 30-year-old West Jordan man, who grew up in Bountiful, woke up one morning five years ago with a swollen stomach. After a battery of tests, he was told he had cryptogenic cirrhosis, a form of cirrhosis of unknown origin.
"I told them there was no way I could have cirrhosis," Freckleton said. "I always associated it with alcohol use, and I think I've had Nyquil all of two times in my life. That's about the extent of it for me."
Doctors told the young father of one child they didn't know why he had it or how he contracted it, but he would eventually need a liver transplant.
"It was just one of those Old Maid cards," Freckleton said, "so I took the hand I was dealt and was able to go another four years."
Then one night in 2008, after watching a Brigham Young University vs. University of Utah game, Freckleton began throwing up blood.
"Everyone was joking with me and telling me I got too emotionally upset over the game," said Freckleton, a U of U graduate but major BYU fan. "When I got to the hospital, I learned that blood wasn't flowing through my liver the way it should."
Freckleton had a procedure to correct the problem, but on Christmas Day, he began feeling sick again.
"I was at my grandma's house in Bountiful and I started throwing up bright red blood," he said. "My dad jumped up and drove me to the emergency room. I was throwing up blood all the way to the hospital."
Another operation was successful, but Freckleton started experiencing severe itching. His body and eyes turned yellow from jaundice, and doctors placed him on a liver transplant list.
In June 2009, he received a liver.
"I was doing great. I thought I was cruising. I had to get bloodwork done three times a week to make sure everything was fine," he said.
Three weeks after his transplant, things started to go terribly wrong. Freckleton got a phone call from his doctor telling him to go straight to the emergency room.
"He told me my blood didn't look good. Then they sent me down for a CT scan and it showed that my liver was bubbling, almost on the verge of exploding."
Freckleton's family was told he had 12 to 48 hours to live unless another liver became available. He was placed at the top of the transplant list.
As the family waited and prayed, a liver became available and was flown in from California.
"The first surgery took 14 hours. The second one took seven hours," he said. "The doctors all told me that was the fastest they've ever seen a liver transplant done.
"When the surgeon came out, he told my family everything went really well. He had tears in his eyes. We think he was trying to tell us he had a helping hand in the operating room."
Since his second transplant, Freckleton has had a couple of minor setbacks but is doing well. Frequent checkups and anti-rejection medications are costly, however.
"The average liver transplant costs more than $500,000, and that's only the beginning," said Mandy Scherer, director of marketing and public relations for the National Foundation for Transplants in Tennessee.
"Even with health coverage, Chad will face significant medical expenses for the rest of his life."
Scherer said post-transplant medications that are critical to survival cost $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
Because of the ongoing expenses, Chad's old Bountiful neighborhood held a fundraiser where they collected all of their spare change and put it in a jar. One night, the neighbors gathered in his parents' basement and surprised Freckleton with nearly $3,000.
On Saturday, another fundraiser will be held in his behalf.
A multifamily yard sale, with household items, clothing, books, toys, small appliances and more, will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at 2010 S. Davis Blvd., Bountiful.
Donations also can be made to the National Foundation for Transplants in Freckleton's behalf.
"I am so grateful for everyone who has helped, and I am very grateful for organ donation," Freckleton said.
"I've become a big promoter. One person can save eight lives, and I'm living proof that organ donations save lives. I've tried to be very positive through this whole experience.
"You can either blame God or turn to God in times of trial and crisis. No matter how hard you think things are, there's always someone else out there who's going through something much worse. You have to be positive."