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Floral Pk. man still seeks liver

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Nearly a year after the Floral Park resident reached out to the TimesLedger in hopes of finding a liver transplant donor, Checola is still struggling."It's very stressful on [my] family," Checola, 52, said in a phone interview, noting that he has two teenage stepdaughters and a 4-year-old daughter. "I'm in and out of the hospital a lot. That stress alone plays on the family."In a year, he has had seven interested donors tested, but all were turned down for various reasons."Anybody that even steps up to [become a donor] is a special person," Checola said.Complicating matters, he said, is that the transplant waiting list he is on at NYU Medical Center prefers that a family member or friend donate a liver but he has exhausted that option."That puts a damper on how we can get more donors," he said. Because he is not as close to death as others awaiting a transplant, Checola, who has Type-O blood, said he is not fit for a cadaver liver so he is reaching out to the community. He said since only a portion of the liver could be used and the organ can regenerate, prospective donors with Type-O negative or positive blood should not feel uneasy about helping him out. The former operating engineer is in need of a transplant because of his struggle with alcoholism, a demon he has successfully fought for 18 years after enrolling in a self-help program and attending Our Lady of the Snows Church in Floral Park for 15 years. "Thank God I have the program," Checola said. "That's why I think I'm chugging along the way I am."Since his story was told last April, he has had two hospitalizations: one to check for fluids in his liver and the other because ammonia levels from his liver went to his head, which affected his thoughts and speech that left him "beyond disoriented."His energy level has also gotten progressively worse and he has to stay at home. But he would like to return to his job, where his co-workers had raised $6,000 to help him out before he was on Social Security."My goal is to get better and get back to work," he said.When told that some letters received by the TimesLedger said Checola was unfit for a transplant because of his past, he respected their opinion but said he was worthy of finding a donor."I've helped more people in my sobriety than hurt when I was an alcoholic," he said, citing parishioners of his church who he has sponsored in Alcoholics Anonymous. "If God can forgive me, then why can't these people forgive me?"If you are interested in donating your liver to Joseph Checola, contact either Louis Lucciani at 718-470-1695 or Jerry Pelan at 718-470-0560. Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173

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