Waiting for “The Call”

August 29, 2017

She doesn’t know when she will get the call. It could be early morning, it could be mid afternoon, it could be the middle of the night. The organ could come from anywhere and the patient could be any age.

The night before it was a liver. The donor was in New Jersey and the surgeons were flying out to procure the organ. Liska typically gets anywhere from two to 12 hours advance notice.

“Once the surgeons procure the organ, I start getting the team together,” said Liska, 33. Her job begins by texting a team of ten nurses. They need three to come in and begin preparing for the transplant before the surgeon arrives with the organ.

The team members are on call 24-7 and average about 10 days off on a six-week schedule. They must live within 45 minutes of the hospital so they can be on site at a moment’s notice. Liska and her husband Mark live downtown with their 2-year-old son.

“With transplant it’s either feast or famine. The summer months are typically very busy – people are out more,” said Liska. “We average about one liver transplant every day and sometimes two and three kidney transplants a day.”

A graduate of Lawrence North High School, Liska spent a summer working as a Certified Nursing Assistant and decided then she wanted to pursue a career in nursing.

“It was probably the hardest job I’ve ever done but also helped me realize I liked the hands-on part of patient care,” said Liska. She attended Purdue University, in part because she wanted to continue performing percussion but didn’t want to focus on music as a major. She spent four years playing with a percussion ensemble performing at bowl games, and a concert in Carnegie Hall. She returns to campus every year to perform in the Purdue Christmas Shows at the Elliott Hall of Music.

As a nursing student Liska thought she might want to work in trauma or open-heart surgery. But when she spent a day shadowing at Methodist in the transplant unit her mind was made up.

“I saw how this was so life changing for the patient,” said Liska. “The environment was so engaging and I knew this was a job I could embrace. Now we’ve become very close – it’s an interesting family in transplant. We spend so much time together that we really help balance each other out.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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