ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- For many, Christmas dinner is a once a year occasion to indulge in seasonal favorites. For Messan Esse, this is the first Christmas in years that he will get any indulgence at all.
"I eat right now what I didn't eat for long time, and I'm good. I feel good," Esse said.
Esse is recovering from a double organ transplant. Mayo Clinic doctors replaced both his heart and his liver in early October.
"I am a new man -- made at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn.," Esse said.
Esse was diagnosed with a rare disease called Familial Amyloidosis in 2011. It's a genetic disorder where the liver creates an excess protein that builds up over years in a person's organs. The chances of having it are less than one in 100,000. For Esse, the disease destroyed his heart. The only way to treat him and save his life was to replace both organs -- both from the same donor.
"The person who donate my organs -- that person is my life right now," Esse said.
As Christmas approaches, Esse's doctors say sometimes the hardest gift to think about giving can really be the most important.
"This is really at this time of the year with the holidays to remember to talk to your family about organ donation -- to sign organ donor cards and put it on your driver's license to make these kind of miracles happen," said Dr. Brooks Edwards, director of the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center.
Esse's life isn't just one miracle.
He moved to Kansas City, Kan., in 1999 after spending 7 years in a West African refugee camp. He says he fled the nation of Togo because of political persecution to live and work in the United States. He became a citizen in 2005.
So you might say he's been saved twice -- escaping from danger in Togo, now getting a lifeline with transplants at Mayo. But his struggle is not over.
"We don't have anything right now," Esse said. "I'm going to lose my house."
But Esse and his wife are resilient and humble. As they look for a solution for when his recovery ends in January, they know they have been given the greatest gift and for that they say they are forever grateful.
"I owe him and his family all my life," Esse said. "And everyday I think of him. He's my life."
Mayo Clinic doctors have performed four heart and liver transplants this year and sometimes those transplants can mean another gift. Because the disease takes 30 to 40 years to cause organ failure, sometimes the liver can be passed on to another, older patient.
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