Math teacher undergoes liver transplant

By Macy Spangler
Journalism Student

Around 11 p.m. on Sept. 19, WCHS math teacher Tim Fish received a phone call that would forever change his life. The voice on the other end of the line was that of a hospital employee who informed him that a donor liver was waiting at the hospital, and he would be the recipient.

10 years ago, Fish was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) which is a long-term disease that slowly damages the bile ducts in the liver. Bile is made in the liver and is a liquid necessary to digest fats and fatty vitamins.

PSC’s side effects include itching, insomnia, jaundice, hypersensitive skin, aversion from heat and fatigue, just to name a few. Fish battled all of these side effects even while teaching full-time as well as being a husband and a father.

“I felt fortunate to sleep 3 hours a night. I could no longer carry my golf bag due to how itchy and hot my shoulders got, I had to get a push cart. Days hotter than 80 and days high in humidity, I just stayed inside. Heat was avoided as much as possible,” Fish said.

On top of managing his job as a teacher with the effects of his condition, Fish continued to bring a positive and inspiring attitude to class that made an impact on his students. Freshman Sydney Clements explained why Fish was one of her favorite teachers.

“Mr. Fish was probably my favorite teacher just off of first impressions and as the school year went on…He was always very supportive of us and he always asked if we had any questions. He explained things and was very open and comfortable with our class so that we were able to learn what we needed to,” Clements said.

Fish’s surgeon also found pre-cancerous signs in Fish’s liver within the past two years. He had a few chromosomal flaws including trisomy and polysomy (meaning there are too many copies of a certain chromosome leading to issues). This resulted in Fish being placed on the organ transplant list for a new liver before his existing liver became cancerous.

“My doctors and I felt we should beat cancer to my liver by transplanting before it could take hold,” Fish said.

Fish had to wait 40 days after being put on the transplant list. On Sept. 19, he found out that there was a liver waiting for him.

”[It was] like skydiving. Jump and pray to God the chute opens. The difference was I second guessed the skydive, but not the transplant. I was confident in my team of doctors, and knew that if I woke up, I would make it,” Fish said.

And he did wake up. After the surgery on Sept. 20, he stayed in the hospital for another week. Currently, he is recovering at home and getting ready to be back at school for second semester. The impact that the transplant has had on his life is already prominent.

“Two nights in a row recently, I slept 6 hour stretches. The itching is gone. Heat isn’t intolerable anymore. Energy and attitude have improved, probably due to sleep. I look forward to doing things outside in the summer with my family, carrying my golf bag again, and being able to sleep through the night again,” Fish said.

Fish also looks forward to excelling in his teaching.

“I should be able to utilize my prep better rather than viewing it as a time to recover some energy. I have been so exhausted before that I’ve used it to nap,” Fish said.

Fish’s transplant has been life-changing. His recovery process can be read about at ifinedmathsworthy.wordpress.com.Around 11 p.m.. on Sept. 19, WCHS math teacher Tim Fish received a phone call that would forever change his life. The voice on the other end of the line was that of a hospital employee who informed him that a donor liver was waiting at the hospital, and he would be the recipient.

10 years ago, Fish was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) which is a long-term disease that slowly damages the bile ducts in the liver. Bile is made in the liver and is a liquid necessary to digest fats and fatty vitamins.

PSC’s side effects include itching, insomnia, jaundice, hypersensitive skin, aversion from heat and fatigue, just to name a few. Fish battled all of these side effects even while teaching full-time as well as being a husband and a father.

“I felt fortunate to sleep 3 hours a night. I could no longer carry my golf bag due to how itchy and hot my shoulders got, I had to get a push cart. Days hotter than 80 and days high in humidity, I just stayed inside. Heat was avoided as much as possible,” Fish said.

On top of managing his job as a teacher with the effects of his condition, Fish continued to bring a positive and inspiring attitude to class that made an impact on his students. Freshman Sydney Clements explained why Fish was one of her favorite teachers.

“Mr. Fish was probably my favorite teacher just off of first impressions and as the school year went on…He was always very supportive of us and he always asked if we had any questions. He explained things and was very open and comfortable with our class so that we were able to learn what we needed to,” Clements said.

Fish’s surgeon also found pre-cancerous signs in Fish’s liver within the past two years. He had a few chromosomal flaws including trisomy and polysomy (meaning there are too many copies of a certain chromosome leading to issues). This resulted in Fish being placed on the organ transplant list for a new liver before his existing liver became cancerous.

“My doctors and I felt we should beat cancer to my liver by transplanting before it could take hold,” Fish said.

Fish had to wait 40 days after being put on the transplant list. On Sept. 19, he found out that there was a liver waiting for him.

”[It was] like skydiving. Jump and pray to God the chute opens. The difference was I second guessed the skydive, but not the transplant. I was confident in my team of doctors, and knew that if I woke up, I would make it,” Fish said.

And he did wake up. After the surgery on Sept. 20, he stayed in the hospital for another week. Currently, he is recovering at home and getting ready to be back at school for second semester. The impact that the transplant has had on his life is already prominent.

“Two nights in a row recently, I slept 6 hour stretches. The itching is gone. Heat isn’t intolerable anymore. Energy and attitude have improved, probably due to sleep. I look forward to doing things outside in the summer with my family, carrying my golf bag again, and being able to sleep through the night again,” Fish said.

Fish also looks forward to excelling in his teaching.

“I should be able to utilize my prep better rather than viewing it as a time to recover some energy. I have been so exhausted before that I’ve used it to nap,” Fish said.

Fish’s transplant has been life-changing. His recovery process can be read about at ifinedmathsworthy.wordpress.com.

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