In September 2020, Michael Gaglione received news that would alter his life forever.
He was diagnosed with irreversible liver disease that month and was placed on the transplant later that year. On February 15, 2022, the phone rang with a life-changing call that there was a liver available for him. Over the course of the next couple days, which included a twelve-hour surgery, Michael received this gift of life.
However, this is not a story about Michael Gaglione but instead one about his family and their support. Through all the ups and downs of living with liver disease as well as post-transplant life, Michael knows he could not have done it without his family’s complete support.
“They have meant absolutely everything to me throughout this journey,” he said. “I’ve thought about them every step of the way. Whether I was scared, optimistic, in pain, exhausted, happy, grateful, nervous, or upbeat; they’ve been at the center of every emotion I’ve had.”
You never want to go through something like this alone and luckily for Michael he did not have to. While Michael was put through a wringer, Kelli was there every step of the way.
Her sister Jennifer chimed in saying, “She’s just special; Kelli had no idea what the future would look like, and she was able to keep it all together. I’m so happy for both of them.”
Between trips to the hospital, Kelli kept a household of three kids and all of their busy schedules running smoothly.
“Kelli has been a rock the whole time,” Michael said. “While I’m in the hospital for two weeks, she’s doing it all alone… cooking, laundry, getting kids to school, communicating with everyone, working full time. Then I come home and she’s a part-time nurse, pharmacist, therapist, and just full time wonderful. It’s been a whirlwind.”
Kelli has kept her head up high since the initial diagnosis.
“That’s just Kelli for you; she would do anything for her family. They’re lucky to have each other,” added her brother Joe.
That unity and their collective determination has kept the family going.
Michael articulated, “This has not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.”
As for the kids, first there’s their 10-year-old daughter, Emma. She showed her daddy so much love and affection throughout this entire fight and Michael is glad his little girl was right there for him.
“Emma checked on me every day when I got home. She was actually nice to me the whole time; that was a welcome change,” Michael said, smiling. “Emma is sassy and doesn’t take BS from anyone and that strength has helped me through this process.”
Luca (12) is Michael and Kelli’s middle child and the spark plug of the family. He kept checking in, wanting to ensure his dad was okay.
“Luca called me the most; he was just worried about me and that meant so much to me,” Michael told. “It was important for me to be home for his birthday, and I was discharged in time to make it home on February 28. Now, if I could just get him to clean his room…”
Then there’s the oldest son, 14-year-old Nicholas. Throughout this entire fight, Michael has seen his oldest son grow so much and he’s so proud of him.
“Nicky really stepped up; he became a young man,” Michael stated.
Nicholas was able to provide the right amount of guidance to his brother and sister while also giving his mom a whole lot of support.
“He’s a knucklehead sometimes, but he’s our knucklehead and we love him so much,” Michael added. “I’m just so grateful for all he’s done.”
Michael has been showered with love and encouragement from many others as well, but it has been the care and support from Kelli, Nicholas, Luca and Emma that has meant the most. He says he will never forget how they came together as a family when it mattered most and he’s certain that this strengthened bond will continue forever.
Having them in his life gave Michael profound meaning throughout this journey.
“Post-transplant I have been able to watch them all play in baseball, softball and football games, but I also got to witness the innocence and enjoyment that Emma has when she’s with her friends and teammates,” Michael thoughtfully said. “I’m envious of the will and the drive that Luca has to be a superstar. And to see Nicholas start a new chapter of high school and just kick ass is so rewarding.”
They made him want to push through every single day and he realizes that this experience has strengthened them all individually and as a whole.
On the other hand, Michael’s gratitude and feelings for his donor family can never be fully expressed or described.
“There is a family out there that lost a loved one; and that person and his family has made this second chance possible. I could never thank them enough.”
He believes he has received a new lease on life and he will not take that for granted. He just wants to reciprocate the love and support for his family as much as possible.
“I’m optimistic about the future; it’s an adventure I’m looking forward to,” Michael exclaimed.
“I have seen so much wonder and beauty throughout this whole process… from the world class medical care, to my friends and extended family, to the whole support system, to the donor family… they have all provided me with the opportunity to live a better, healthier life. But this family – Kelli, Nicholas, Luca & Emma – has given me the purpose and the reason to live a much more meaningful life. I am eternally grateful to them all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” – Michael