Mario Reyes – Liver Transplant Patient Success Story

SAVORING a Second Chance

After receiving a new liver, chef Mario Reyes thanks the Methodist Dallas transplant staff with a feast

Chef Mario Reyes couldn’t shake the extreme fatigue and swelling around his legs and stomach that began plaguing him in 2016.

“I assumed the demands of working as a corporate executive chef and traveling were the causes,” he says.

The Elior North America corporate executive chef went to his primary care provider and received an unexpected diagnosis: end-stage liver disease. Mario’s doctor referred him to The Liver Institute at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where he was treated by Jeffrey Weinstein, MD, medical director of liver transplantation and hepatobiliary services. A liver biopsy confirmed Mario would need a transplant to survive.

Playing the waiting game

The years that followed on the transplant waiting list were difficult for Mario. He made numerous trips from his home in Denton to Dallas for doctor visits and blood work. He was on an intense drug regimen to keep him alive, and he says the wait took an emotional toll. On top of that, he had to put his cooking career on hold.

“Sometimes I wondered if there would ever be a perfect organ match for me, and doubt would start to creep in,” Mario says.

The support of friends and his family — wife, Carolyn; daughter, Emily; son, Jordan; and relatives in Toronto — helped Mario push through the bad days.

Getting the call

On Jan. 10, 2018, Mario finally received the call he’d been waiting for: He was getting a new liver.

“I was so excited to get the news that I’d spent two years waiting for,” he says. “When I got in the operating room, I told my surgeon, ‘I’m ready.’”

Vichin C. Puri, MD, Mario’s transplant surgeon at Methodist Dallas, says the seemingly endless cycle of testing and procedures necessary to keep patients like Mario alive can be rough on their emotional well-being and health.

“Patients have to live with symptoms of chronic illness, which are emotionally and physically taxing, not just for the patient but also for their loved ones,” Dr. Puri says. “Many of these patients lose their lives without an organ transplant. Being able to help patients like Mario get a new organ and go back to being highly productive and in normal health is a great feeling.”

Mario spent 12 days recovering in the hospital, and he credits the Methodist Dallas staff with providing “incredible care.”

“I’ll never go to any other hospital,” he says. “It’s worth the 35-mile drive. The Liver Institute is my second home.”

Giving back

Mario wanted to thank the entire transplant staff in a big way.

“When it comes to giving back, I believe food is life, happiness, and passion,” he says. “I decided to plan a feast.”

With the help of his friend Salvatore Gisellu, executive chef at Urban Crust, Mario arranged for a mobile pizza kitchen to visit Methodist Dallas just three months after his surgery. The culinary team served pizza, salad, and desserts to more than 130 transplant team members who helped save his life. Mario and his fellow chefs with the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society also presented Methodist Dallas with a $3,000 check toward lifesaving treatment.

Today, Mario’s health has come a long way.

“I haven’t had any problems with rejection of the liver,” he says. “I feel great, I’m playing golf, and I’m slowly getting back into cooking.”

Reflecting on the past year of his health journey, Mario is excited about what life has in store and is happy to get back to living life fully. He doesn’t take the gift he has been given for granted.

“I’m grateful to every single person who is a registered organ donor and helps to spread the word on how important it is to sign up to become one,” he says. “Organ donors are brave, and organ donors save lives. I feel fortunate and grateful for my new liver. I hope to continue to share my story.”

Chef Mario Reyes and others from the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society present a check for $3,000 to his doctors, Jeffrey Weinstein, MD, and Vichin C. Puri, MD, to help them continue their lifesaving work at Methodist Dallas.

» Giving organ recipients hope

The Transplant Institute at Methodist Dallas is home to advanced, patient-centered transplant services. Learn more at MethodistHealthSystem.org/Dallas-Transplant.