KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State Police Trooper Christopher Boven has known since he was 13 that he was someday going to need a new liver. That day came 23 years later in 2017 when a healthy, active life began to falter.
Boven, 37, continued to work even though his doctors told him the time for a transplant was at hand.
Boven’s Henry Ford Health System liver doctor works with Spectrum Health’s liver clinic in Kentwood, which provides pre- and post-surgical care and saved Boven from the 3.5-hour drive between Detroit and Muskegon, where he lives with his wife, 4-year-old son and 2-month-old foster daughter.
“This arrangement is beneficial for both institutions, particularly for our patients in the area like Trooper Boven,” said Dr. Andrew Shreiner, gastroenterology section chief at Spectrum Health.
A liver transplant is a big deal. There are thousands of people waiting for livers to become available. For an MSP trooper with the Marine Division and father who is used to putting his life on the line for others, relying on someone else was a new experience. Boven even had a partner for years who never knew he had a liver problem. He did not want to ask for help but was left with no choice: his liver was failing.
“I had to take an ego check, I had to be a little more humble and realize I needed some help,” Boven recalled Friday.
Boven said he was not happy when his wife Alex put the word out on social media in 2018 that he needed a new liver. What happened next changed how he felt.
“We had so many volunteers from our post and those people around us in the state police that eventually the hospital in Detroit had to say, ‘OK, that’s enough,’” said 1st Lt. Chris McIntire, commander at the MSP Rockford Post, where Boven used to work.
“I will never forget that,” said Dr. Dilip Moonka, the Henry Ford transplant hepatologist overseeing Boven’s case. “Really one of the highlights of my career to see how these guys approached the brotherhood of being state troopers.”
After Boven’s brother and another trooper were excluded from donation, it ended up being Trooper David Burr, who had been trained by Boven years before, who was a match.
Burr, who also serves as U.S. Army Reserve member, seems absolutely nonplussed by the experience. He said anyone who can donate should.
“It was very pain-free and very rewarding overall. It’s a good experience,” Burr said.
“He’s being modest but, honestly, the guy’s a superhero, man. Look at him,” Boven said.
“That’s hard to follow up with,” was Burr’s response, accompanied by a smile.
Both men are doing great after the February surgery at Henry Ford in Detroit, according to the doctors who say the plan is for both of them to “die of old age with their shoes off.”
Beyond the doctors and his co-workers, Boven credits his wife Alex, a nurse-in-training, with saving his life in the often-unsung position of caregiver and advocate.
“I didn’t stop, I didn’t give up,” Alex Boven said. “He needed me, so you just have to keep charging through and then you get on the other side of it and you say, ‘When did I sleep or eat?'”