Everyman Theatre’s Lighting Director Highlights His Own Transplant Story and Spotlights New Play About Organ Transplantation
In an ironic example of art imitating life, the same January week in 2016 that Jay Herzog celebrates the first year anniversary of his own living-donor liver transplant, he lights the set at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre as Under the Skin opens, a new play focusing on organ transplantation.
Herzog, Everyman Theatre’s lighting director and a professor in the theater department at Towson University, received a liver transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center on January 21, 2015. The play focuses on the family dynamics surrounding a man who also needs an organ transplant, in this case, a kidney. The University of Maryland Medical Center is a corporate sponsor of the play during its run at Everyman.
See videos featuring Jay Herzog below.
Herzog says a rare, inherited disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency eventually led to his liver failure. Symptoms showed up suddenly in the summer of 2014. By Labor Day, doctors said he needed a liver transplant to survive.
Around the same time, Everyman’s founding artistic director, Vincent Lancisi, was in the process of reviewing Michael Hollinger’s Under the Skin as a possible candidate for the theatre's 25th anniversary season. The play touches on many of the issues surrounding organ transplantation, organ donation, the impact of transplantation on families as well as the medical aspects of transplantation, including donor selection and compatibility, and the critical decisions that a growing shortage of organs forces on all aspects of the transplantation process.
As word of Herzog’s need for a transplant emerged and the Everyman family went about helping Herzog and his loved ones cope with the devastating news, it became clear that performance of Under the Skin would have special significance for the Company, and could open doors to a broader discussion about organ transplantation.
Living Organ Donation
Herzog's transplant surgeon, Rolf N. Barth, MD, associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of liver transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center, says after a patient has been diagnosed with end-stage organ failure, the challenge is how to obtain an organ that would be the medical therapy to save their life.
Herzog was told he could have a four-year wait until a deceased donor liver was available, and while he waited, he would become sicker and sicker.
Barth says that with over 15,000 people waiting for a liver transplant, the deceased donor pool is not enough to meet the needs. Living liver donation, in which a person donates a piece of their liver, can make the difference, he adds. It is a life-saving treatment that prevents the medical decline that Barth says can be extremely dangerous for a patient with continuing liver failure.
Herzog says he is alive today thanks to a living organ donation from someone who really loves him. “I have been given the most important gift anyone could ever give.” He adds that his entire experience, from organ failure to finding a donor, has given him a new perspective on life and what it means to donate life.