Westmoreland airport director returns home after liver transplant | TribLIVE.com

Westmoreland airport director returns home after liver transplant

Jeff Himler
Gabe Monzo (right), executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority. and his niece, Casey Holnaider Vrable, are recovering after she donated a portion of her liver to him. This photo was taken on the 10th day after the April 9, transplant surgery in Pittsburgh.

Westmoreland County Airport Authority Executive Director Gabe Monzo reached a milestone in his recovery from a liver transplant when he returned to his home in Unity Monday.

“It’s nice to be home,” Monzo said via telephone Tuesday afternoon. “Everything’s going good.”

Though he is tired, he said, “I’m feeling really good.”

He said there have been no signs of rejection of the portion of liver he received from his niece, Casey Holnaider Vrable of Latrobe, in a living-donor transplant April 9 through the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases in Pittsburgh. But, he noted, his doctors are continuing to adjust medications he must take.

Before the procedure, Monzo had struggled for months with the draining effects of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a chronic disease that causes liver inflammation and damage.

Family members had indicated Monzo needed a transplant within a year to survive. Fortunately, his niece proved to be a match and was able to serve as a donor.

“She’s a trooper,” Monzo said of his niece. “There was no hesitation. She said, ‘OK. Let’s do this.’ I’m just so proud of her.”

The donated liver is expected to grow in Monzo while his niece’s liver regenerates.

After being released from UPMC, Monzo initially stayed at a Pittsburgh hotel, to be close to his doctor there “in case something flared up,” he said.

Return trips to the doctor to check his condition have decreased from twice a week to once a week, Monzo said, adding, “When he says I don’t have to come in for a month, that’s when I’ll know I’m doing OK.”

Because of the risk of infection, Monzo said, others must wear masks in his presence.

“I can’t be in big crowds,” he said. “I don’t want to catch anything.”

As a result, he said, he may not be able to attend the airport authority’s annual Westmoreland County Airshow, slated for May 25 and 26 at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.

Monzo said he is able to walk around his home as he recovers. But, he said, “I’m used to doing my work, getting home at 4 and going fishing on the weekend. I’d love to get back to that.”

Monzo said, since his ongoing medication regimen remains in flux, he’s not sure yet what costs will be covered by insurance. He noted some of the medications cost thousands of dollars a month.

A basket raffle to raise money to help with Monzo’s medical expenses was scheduled Tuesday evening at DeNunzio’s restaurant at the Palmer airport.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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