Spectrum Health Medical Group

Michigan State Police Troopers Undergo Rare Living Donor Liver Transplant

Treatment highlights partnership between Henry Ford Health System and Spectrum Health

Boven once jokingly offered to mow Burr's lawn for the rest of his life. "The only way I can repay him is to continue on with my life and live my life," Boven decided. (Chris Clark | Spectrum Health Beat)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Nov. 22, 2019 – Two Michigan State Police troopers are back on the road after one donated half of his liver to the other in a living donor liver transplant earlier this year.

Trooper David Burr, 28, of Grand Rapids, donated part of his liver to the officer who trained him, Trooper Christopher Boven, 37, of North Muskegon. The transplant took place in adjacent operating rooms Feb. 25, 2019 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, with pre- and post-surgery support provided by the Henry Ford Transplant Institute Liver Transplant Clinic at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

Burr’s gift of life came after dozens of Michigan State Police officers and others volunteered for the screening to donate.

“I get to see my son grow up,” Boven said about his 4-year-old son, Eli. His wife, Alex, is graduating from nursing school in May. “It’s very humbling when you think about the number of people who helped out, from Henry Ford, Spectrum Health, your family, friends, coworkers, your extended family; I can’t fathom the number of people who rallied to help me. When you’re on the other side of the health spectrum, it’s very overwhelming. I still can’t believe it all worked out.”

Boven, a Byron Center native and 2005 Grand Valley State University graduate returned to work Oct. 21 in MSP’s Lansing-based specialized Marine Services Team. He now focuses on sonar operation in what is commonly known as the Dive Team. Burr, a Martin native who graduated from Michigan State Police Academy in 2016, joined MSP and was trained by Boven. He returned to work at the Rockford MSP post several months after making the decision to donate.

“To me it was a no-brainer,” Burr said. “A lot of people talk about wanting to save people’s lives in this job.” He said that when he thought about Boven’s need for a transplant, he thought ‘It’s time to step up to the plate.”

“Many people don’t realize a liver can regenerate,” said Henry Ford Transplant Institute director Marwan Abouljoud, MD. The internationally renowned transplant surgeon removed about 55 percent of Burr’s liver, which then was transplanted into Boven by Henry Ford transplant surgeon Atsushi Yoshida, MD. Both livers regrew to normal size within three months. Boven will continue to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life.

Since the first living liver transplant in Michigan in 1996, there have been 157 living liver transplants in Michigan, according to U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) data as of Oct. 31, 2019. The team at Henry Ford Hospital conducted 124 of those procedures, the most experienced team in the state.

“We are grateful to offer hope and the gift of life to our patients, particularly through our partners at Spectrum Health on the west side of our great state,” said Dr. Abouljoud, who is also president-elect of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.  “It’s particularly wonderful to support two gentlemen whose lives revolve around service to others through their work at the Michigan State Police.”

The troopers’ health will continue to be monitored in part at the Liver Transplant Clinic at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. The clinic offers appointments with Henry Ford liver transplant experts, a highly specialized field, close to home for patients in West Michigan.

“We are pleased to host Henry Ford Hepatology at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and to collaborate with experts on liver disease and transplantation,” said Andrew Shreiner, MD, GI section chief, Spectrum Health. “This type of arrangement benefits both organizations, but most importantly, allows patients like Trooper Boven to receive care closer to home.”

One benefit of living liver donation is that the transplanted organs typically last longer than those received from deceased donors. Living liver transplant patients also are transplanted faster than those waiting for livers from deceased donors, and typically long before they are too sick to undergo the operation. A living donor frees up a deceased donor liver for another patient on the wait list. And the surgery can be scheduled when it is convenient for the donor, recipient and doctors.

When he was just 13 years old growing up in Byron Center, Boven was diagnosed by doctors at Spectrum Health with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) after he noticed what he thought was a swollen lymph node in his armpit. The chronic, progressive liver disease causes inflammation and fibrosis that eventually leads to cirrhosis and impaired liver function.

He gave up contact sports and lived symptom free for many years. But in 2017, a thorn-bush scratch turned into a series of skin infections that sent his immune system – and the PSC symptoms – into overdrive. By Spring 2018, doctors at Henry Ford Health System told him a liver transplant was inevitable.

Transplant coordinators received dozens of offers from people willing to undergo screening for the transplant after social media posts and emails about Boven were shared. Those who donate a liver or a kidney undergo a stringent evaluation process to determine, first, if their own health is good and, second, whether they are a perfect match for the recipient.

Two other potential donors made it partway through the evaluation process. Burr ultimately was deemed the best match and was able to donate.

“Two days after surgery, I walked in his room and said, ‘You saved my life, man,’” Boven said. “And he said, ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way.’  I think it has a lot to do with his upbringing and his character. He’s one of those types of guys, if there’s a need, he’s going to do it. How do you repay someone like that? The only way I can repay him is continue on with my life and live my life. I’ve tried to figure it out: ‘Do you want me to come over and mow your lawn?’ He just laughs.”

Now, Boven occasionally, when overwhelmed with emotion about the gift he received, will text a quick thank you to his former police “cub.” One text came over the summer as he stood looking out over the Silver Lake sand dunes, enjoying time with his son and wife.

“I’ll look around and I’ll send a picture to Dave with, ‘Hey, I just want to say thanks,’” Boven said.

For more information about living liver or living kidney transplant, please visit www.HenryFord.com/livingdonation




About Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Health System is a six-hospital system headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive, integrated health systems, recognized for clinical excellence and innovation. Henry Ford Health System provides both health insurance and health care delivery, including acute, specialty, primary and preventive care services backed by excellence in research and education. Henry Ford Health System is led by President & CEO Wright Lassiter III. Visit HenryFord.com to learn more.

About Henry Ford Transplant Institute
Since the first transplant in 1968, Henry Ford Transplant Institute has performed more than 6,150 solid organ transplants and 1,250 bone marrow stem cell transplants as of 2018. Today the Henry Ford Transplant Institute is the most comprehensive transplant center in Michigan offering transplantation of liver, kidney, intestine and multivisceral organs, pancreas, heart, lung and stem cell with superior patient outcomes.

Spectrum Health System, a not-for-profit, integrated health system, is committed to improving the health and wellness of our communities. We live our mission every day with 31,000 compassionate professionals, 4,600 medical staff experts, 3,300 committed volunteers and a health plan serving 1 million members. Our talented physicians and caregivers are privileged to offer a full continuum of care and wellness services to our communities through 14 hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, 150 ambulatory sites and telehealth offerings. We pursue health care solutions for today and tomorrow that diversify our offerings. Locally-governed and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, our health system provided $585 million in community benefit in fiscal year 2019. Thanks to the generosity of our communities, we received $30 million in philanthropy in the most recent fiscal year to support research, academics, innovation and clinical care. Spectrum Health has been recognized as one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems by Truven Health Analytics®, part of IBM Watson HealthTM.

Tim Hawkins
Media Relations
Office: 616.486.6091
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Email: timothy.hawkins@spectrumhealth.org