Area couple awaits man’s heart, liver transplant

'Ben's Flock' rallies for man needing transplants

According to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, almost 120,000 Americans are in need of a lifesaving organ transplant, and a new person is added to the nation’s organ transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.

Ben and Liz Leuenberger, both from La Crosse, are waiting for a phone call letting them know it’s time for Ben’s lifesaving surgery.

“That’s probably the hardest part of it all,” Liz said.

In the meantime, they feel like their lives are on hold.

Ben’s congestive heart failure takes things he enjoys doing, like fishing and hunting, off the board.

“I don’t seem to have energy,” he said.

Complications from Ben’s illness showed up early in the couple’s marriage nine years ago, but this spring, they worsened.

“It was hard enough to be there thinking he needed a heart transplant,” Liz said. “We were not expecting news about liver cancer.”

Ben found out he needs both a new heart and a new liver. He and Liz say say his surgery will be the first simultaneous heart and liver transplant UW Health in Madison has ever done

“We try to lift each other up, get through it day by day.”

On the day Ben found out he needed a double organ transplant, however, it took a special friend from a hospital gift shop to really lift their spirits.

“Ben picked out a balloon in the shape of a goose,” Liz said.

Ben and his new pal walked up and down the hospital’s hallways.

“All the patients, doctors and nurses laughed. They thought it was hilarious,” Liz said. “That’s when we decided to be a team for Ben. We decided to be Ben’s flock.”

Day by day, through Easter and Ben’s 40th birthday, Ben’s Flock made it through 40 days in the hospital.

“We’re not in it alone, is the biggest thing we’ve gotten from it,” Liz ssaid.

Now, Ben and Liz celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary outside the hospital, waiting for that phone call.

“(I’m) nervous. Scared,” Ben said. “But I know in the end it’ll, in the end it’ll all work out.”

They don’t know long they’ll be on this path, but they know just where they’re heading.

“Knowing Ben will someday feel better, and be able to live a longer healthier life, and we can spend the rest of our days together enjoying time together, it’s inspiring to know that’s going to be possible someday,” Liz said.

“Got that right,” Ben agreed.

Ben’s friends and family are hosting a benefit for him on Sunday, May 7th at Lost Island Winery in Onalaska. All proceeds go to Ben and Liz. More information can be found on their Go Fund Me page.

To register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor you can go to this website.