Oak Park Police Chief Tony Ambrose is five weeks out from the transplant surgery that gave him a new liver, and pretty much just in time.
Ambrose went on leave from the police department in late April after being diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitus, more commonly known as NASH. By the end of May he was hospitalized with his condition rapidly worsening.
“They told me upfront that I didn’t know how sick I was,” said Ambrose.
He was moved to the top of the transplant list after doctors told him “he couldn’t wait.” A compatible liver was located, and surgery took place late on June 1 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“Knock on wood, so far it is a success,” Ambrose said July 6 in a phone interview.
He said doctors have told him the first two months after surgery are critical as they watch for infection or signs of the organ being rejected. A lesser concern continues for six months to a year, he said.
When word initially spread that Ambrose needed help, more than 20 people came forward in the first week to offer a portion of their liver for transplant. Ambrose said doctors were “amazed” at that level of response. The slow process of evaluating those potential donors was derailed when Ambrose’s condition turned much worse.
“I feel 100 percent better. But I still have a long way to go,” said Ambrose.
After surgery, he was sent to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab rehab center in Chicago. He was released to go home on June 26. Meanwhile, he continues outpatient rehab multiple days each week.
“Right now, I am on specific doctor’s orders to focus on rehab and to get my strength back,” Ambrose said. “I have to be honest, I have a long way to go.”
Ambrose expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from village government staff, the police department, his family and the wider community.
“It has been phenomenal,” he said. “I never expected it.”
Ambrose talked about missing the Fourth of July parade and the fireworks show for the first time in 20 years. He also said that he not used a sick day in 25 years.