Wellsville’s School Board President and civic leader talks about surviving lifesaving surgery and spending the holidays with his family
By Andrew Harris
The biggest story of 2021 for this writer is Al Mosher and his family. In July, the family made a very public announcement: Without a new liver, the husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many would not live much longer.
Immediately the Mosher girls, wife Nancy and three daughters Allison, Jessica, and Stephanie, launched into action to find a donor and save Al’s life. While Al is very accomplished guy, his condition was worsening and the ability to advocate for himself was limited. Against steep odds and limited time available, the Mosher family started the search for an organ donor. Read that original story here:
The efforts paid off, a donor was located and the surgery successful. Al began a long road to recovery and was able to spend this holiday season with his girls, grandkids, and other family members. We asked the Al and his leading ladies some questions about the journey how they turned hope into joy.
WS: Al, lets go back to the week after your transplant. What can you remember thinking as you emerged from the surgery and realized it was successful?
AM: When I woke I was so elated that I could open my eyes and see people staring back at me. I was alive. The doctors told me everything was successful and the surgery was complete.
WS: What does it physically feel like to have a new major organ? Is the adjustment painful or a relief to have the failing organ removed ?
AM: The odd thing was that I had no pain. There was a fullness there and something had happened but no pain. I was more confused at the time because I had survived this but did not feel any different. Over time I started feeling the difference.
WS: Did the new liver start working immediately or is it a process of increasing function ? AM: According to my surgeons my new liver took off working immediately. I noticed a brightness in things. The difference was more of a healing difference. I go each week to clinic and my labs keep improving and my liver functions continue to improve as well.
WS: One of my favorite musicians, Phil Lesh, had a liver transplant and always mentions the donor when he voices his appreciation for a second chance. Do you know the donor and have you connected with that family ? Any stories of irony or serendipity related to the donor worth sharing?
AM: First of all, I am so appreciative of the fact that this donor gave me this gift. We will be making connections in the future through the hospital and hopefully the family knows what a great gift they gave me. And whoever it may be, part of him/her lives on through me.
WS: The women in your life seemed ferociously determined to rally you, the community, and find you a transplant donor. That kind of love is some pretty strong medicine; explain how it feels to have such good fortune in an unfortunate situation ?
AM: Words can never say the love and caring that my family showed to me. My daughters were not to be stopped to make sure I got a donor. We grew up realizing as a family that life is so precious and short and they did everything in their power to make sure that I am with them today, to be able to walk, talk, play with grandkids. I see a future now. The community I live in is bar none the best. I had people that I see everyday walking the streets of Wellsville that prayed for me and continued great thoughts for me. We have all suffered as a community this past year so to have something good happen was a miracle. Special thanks goes out to my sister-in-law Jackie Comstock for her weekly trips to Dansville for medical procedures. She was a huge support to me and someone I could depend on. Also, to the Wellsville Lions Club for their support and numerous offers for transportation.
WS: You have a rock-solid wife Nancy and three very accomplished daughters, each with very different experience and skillsets. What stands out about each in the process of dealing with illness, finding a solution, and recovering from a lifesaving transplant ?
AM: My wife Nancy took such good care of me, standing strong with me, fighting for me always loving me and me loving her. 43 years of love between us. You realize that your soulmate truly loves you when faced with something like this. And no matter what comes your way the faith in each other will make you stronger. My daughters were magnificent. Each had a part in helping me through this process. I have been blessed with three beautiful girls. Each take pride in working to be the best. Each has been my guiding light willing to give of themselves even as a donor to keep me here longer. Each one played a part in getting me ready for this. I could of many times quit but my girls all supported me every inch of the way. I knew towards the end near my surgery I was failing fast. God looked over me and never once backed away from making me better.
WS: Girls, could you answer the same question about each other and mom ?
Jessica: Over the past 1-2 years we have had some significant challenges within our family, but I did not doubt for a second that our family was going to rally around dad. Each of us played an important role in his medical crisis and his healing process. My sisters, brother in laws and husband always had each other to lean on, and we were able to be there for mom during the difficult hospitalizations and information that was shared. Being that I work in the healthcare field as a Nurse Practitioner, I often attended all of dad’s appointments with him, and assisted in helping him with his healthcare decisions. I was able to be there to help the family understand a lot of the medical information that was shared with us so that we could find the best way to support dad. Being that my sisters live in Wellsville they could check in with dad, and make sure that he had everything he needed at home. They were able to help with transportation and just be there whenever he needed someone! One thing I know for sure is we never gave up on Dad and he was not going to give up on us! Many people may not know that dad was scheduled to go to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to also be listed in their transplant program….this would open him up to more opportunities to receive a liver transplant. He received the call from Strong Memorial Hospital for his deceased liver transplant 48 hours before he was to leave for his evaluation at UPMC!!!! I was also scheduled that same week in Pittsburgh for an evaluation to be able to donate a portion of my liver to him, and my sisters were also going through the process to do the same. We had so many people willing to donate to our father, it is amazing to look back at everyone’s generosity! No matter what we were going to find a way to get him the liver he needed! It was a true miracle when he received the phone call for his liver transplant and I think we all were in shock at the change of events that were for the better! My mom has been his rock during this whole process. We cannot thank our family, friends and community enough for all their support during this difficult time! It is only up from here! -Jessica Mosher Strassner
Allison: What stands out the most for me when it comes to my mom and sisters is continuing to put family first and work together as a team. Throughout our dads illness, surgery and recovery everyone has stepped up to take care of Dad. Making sure he has someone to accompany him to appointments and help administer meds has been a priority. My sisters (and brother in laws and my husband) are always willing to rearrange their schedules to make sure dad gets the care he needs. We have needed to work as a team and support one another. The road to the liver transplant wasn’t easy with countless ambulance calls and hospital stays over the last 2 years. Having each other to lean on during those times is what got us through. We are also lucky enough to have a nurse in the family (Jessica) to help explain things along the way. -Allison Green
Stephanie: My family was amazing during this whole experience. The last two years were tough. So many ups and downs and many tears cried. My family was the one constant. They remained strong, and we always supported one another. My sisters and mom fought fierce with me and we were not going to let anything stand in our way. I knew that we could do anything we put our minds to. My husband and brother-in-laws were beyond amazing during the process as well. I am not sure if we could have gotten through this without our community and the love and support that was shown to us daily. God blessed us daily with his love and support and the miracle that was given to us on November 6th. -Stephanie Sturm
WS: Nancy, this entire ordeal must have been terrifying for a mother and wife. What advice can you give someone who is reading this and facing a life-or-death family medical crisis?
Nancy: Do not ever give up hope. Keep trying every avenue that you can to try and find the solution and medical help that you need. Also, having a community behind you to help find that solution as well was phenomenal. This community is amazing. Stay positive even when it’s hard to find the positives.
WS: Al, you must have had plenty of time to wonder if Christmas 2021 was going to happen. Grateful is likely not an appropriate way to describe how you’ve been feeling this holiday. Did the whole family get to gather together and what was it like for you ?
AM: Yes the family did get together. I was so thankful for the person that gave me this chance for life to be here with my family. It was wonderful to see all my family and see and hear the children playing. I really didn’t think this opportunity to be together would happen again. It was an amazing feeling.
WS: What does the future hold for Al Mosher? Can you describe some of the medical realities of being an organ transplant survivor ?
AM: The future is that I will be an advocate for donors and a support for anyone going through a transplant. Whatever I can do to help and support people. The future looks bright. My body took a tremendous hit so I need to keep exercising and eating healthy. I have to be diligent with my medications and follow all doctors orders.
WS: Any big plans for 2022 ? Will you be able to continue to lead the board of education ?
AM: I never once thought of leaving the board of education. My granddaughter graduates this year and I promised her that I would hand her her diploma. I will get to do this now in June. I will be part of the board of education as long as the people want me. My plans for 2022 are to enjoy my family, keep active in the community and thank God daily for this gift.
WS: Is there one thing you added to “the bucket list” during your recovery that is now priority ?
AM: I would like to travel and see places. I have traveled for my job but I would like to just go and enjoy our great country but there will still be no place like Wellsville.
WS: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I think that I speak for many in our community when I say that your recovery was a miracle for Wellsville.
Perhaps the ladies in your life would put together a group statement expressing the joy your family had this holiday ?
“The true meaning of this Christmas was the Christmas miracle that we get to have dad with us to celebrate many more years with his children and grandchildren. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your love, support and kind words during this trying time in our family’s lives. You all mean the world to us and we are beyond blessed. (Mosher girls)”