TRIPLE TRANSPLANT: 3 donors help Minn. man beat leukemia, hepati - KMSP-TV

TRIPLE TRANSPLANT: 3 donors help Minn. man beat leukemia, hepatitis C

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Otteau Christiansen is a living testament to how much medical progress has been made. He's alive today thanks to the ability to take organs from one person and put them in another -- three separate times.

"I've been home about 5 weeks now," Christiansen told Fox 9 News. "The transplant was on March 25."

It's a remarkable thing to get a second chance at life, but Christiansen got that and then some.

"I have a lot of battle scars," he quipped. "My medical odyssey started back in 1981."

Back when the Metrodome was still being built, it looked like Christiansen wouldn't live long enough to see it completed. His first diagnosis came from an emergency room intern -- leukemia at age 27.

Christiansen went to the University of Minnesota, where bone marrow transplants were pioneered; however, his leukemia was already in the most critical stage.

"Your immune system's really gone," he explained. "You're bruising -- and it means 6 to 10 weeks of life left."

No one had survived a bone marrow transplant in his condition until he did, but during that first transplant 33 years ago, he was unknowingly set up for his second.

"I received hepatitis C from contaminated blood," Christiansen recalled.

At the time, transfusions were not thoroughly screened as they are today. As a result, the virus ran down his liver in 2008 -- but he found a living donor to help him with that in a friend of his stepdaughter.

"It's such a heroic thing," Christiansen said. "John Ruebenbauer was the young man's name, and I will be forever indebted to him because he truly saved my life."

Last month, Christiansen's partner of 20 years, Carol, was the one who stepped up to give him one more lease on life.

"Without him, what is my life?" she asked. "I'd have to reinvent everything about my life."

Very few people have both needed and then survived three different transplants, but doctors say that is a true testament to how well they work now.

"He really is a lesson in the evolution of transplants over the last 35 years," Dr. Hassan Ibrahim said. "You've seen minor survival to people living decades with their organs -- thankfully -- because of these drugs that we have now."

Now, the man who wasn't supposed to see the Metrodome finished has outlived it thanks to a place just across the river.

"I've received the finest care available in the world, and I owe a great debt of gratitude toward them," Christiansen said.

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