State troopers bonded over rare living donor transplant

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two Michigan State Police troopers are forever bonded, knowing they share a liver.

Trooper David Burr didn't hesitate when he learned the man who trained him when he entered the force, Trooper Christopher Boven, needed a liver transplant.

“It wasn’t even a question," Burr said.

Boven has lived most of his life with a liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. The disease didn't affect him much until 2017 when he was scratched by a thorn. The minor wound led to a serious of infections that compromised his immune system. By spring of 2018, doctors at Henry Ford Health System told Boven he needed a liver transplant to save his life.

“I’m no doctor but I would say that I maybe had a year or two," Boven said.

Transplant coordinators heard from dozens of people, many of whom were Michigan State Police troopers, volunteering to be screened for the transplant.

“It’s kind of the mentality that all of us has," Burr said. "If someone’s in need, we’re gonna step up to the plate.”

Ultimately, Burr was the best match.

In February, the transplant took place in adjacent operating rooms at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“I mean, it’s a big deal," Boven said. "I don’t want anybody to have to go through that for me but he did and I’m still here today because of it.”

Burr donated about half of his liver to Boven. Each of their livers grew to normal size within three months.

"Most people don't realize a liver can regenerate," Henry Ford Transplant Institute Director Marwan Abouljoud, MD, said.

Burr said two and a half weeks after the surgery, he was back at the gym.

“It was very pain-free throughout the whole time," Burr said.

Boven, who has a wife and 4-year-old son, said he's overwhelmed and grateful.

"I get to see my son grow up," Boven said.

Burr will have to get blood testing once a year and Boven will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of his life. The men were provided support before and after the surgery by the Henry Ford Transplant Institute Liver Transplant Clinic at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

Both men are back to work at their respective posts. Boven works in Lansing and Burr works in Rockford.

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