Arizona vet: The VA saved my life, and my wife's

Michael Nash had a liver transplant lined up, but couldn't fly. That's when the VA chartered a flight.

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. - An Arizona vet is crediting the VA with saving not only his own life, but his wife's as well.

Michael Nash's liver began failing two years ago. He gradually became weaker, moving from a cane to a wheelchair. His wife, Linda, became his constant caregiver. 

"Just to go to the living room, I had to take a nap," Michael Nash said. 

The Army veteran was on the transplant list through the Phoenix VA. On June 20, 2017, the VA told him they'd found a donor liver, but in Nashville, Tennessee.

Typically, a VA spokesman said, the VA flies transplant patients on private planes because there's such a small window in which donor organs are viable.

But on June 20, 2017, temperatures in Phoenix reached 120 degrees -- so hot that airlines grounded planes at Sky Harbor because they weren't rated for that kind of heat.

"First, we got you a liver," Michael said, "and I went from low to the highest I've been in a long time."

"And then we dropped so low when we heard there was no planes taking off," Linda said. 

"I kinda said, 'Well, this is it,'" Michael said. 

But the VA searched for a private jet that was rated for high enough temperatures to be able to take off. Officials found one, chartered it, and sent a car for Michael and LInda.

They flew to Nashville where Michael was prepped and rolled into surgery.

But the strain of taking care of Michael for so long had taken a toll on Linda.

"You just collapse," Linda said. "Your body's just had enough -- the stress is just gone."

She weighed just 80 pounds. While Michael recovered in short order, Linda was in the hospital for months.

"I was flat on my back," Linda said. "I lost movement in my legs."

When Linda recovered, she and Michael headed back to Arizona. Before Michael's liver failure, they had been enjoying retirement. They stopped making plans, wondering if there was a future for them at all. Now they're back, catching up on the retirement they missed out on.

"I feel like I'm 40 again," Michael said. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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