Marcia R. Cohen, 94, formerly of Wynnewood, one of the oldest liver transplant recipients in the world, died Friday, Dec. 24, of heart failure at her son’s home in New York.
Mrs. Cohen was 74 when she received a liver transplant in March 2002 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and she surprised doctors and her family over the years by not only outliving expectations because of her advanced age but also thriving.
According to the American Liver Foundation, about 8,000 liver transplants are performed in the United States every year, and recent statistics show that just a little more than half of the recipients live for 20 years.
Mrs. Cohen was certainly among the most active. She continued to exercise, travel, play bridge and other games, and work on the New York Times crossword puzzles (in ink) for years after her surgery.
She celebrated a family milestone with rides on a motorboat and golf cart just months before her death. Hours before she died, as she lay in bed, she and her son Barry worked on a crossword puzzle together.
Unable to see and write, she listened as he gave her the clues, and she whispered the answers. “She seemed to get stronger as she aged,” said her son. “She had as much hair at 94 as she did at 24.”
Mrs. Cohen was suffering from primary biliary cholangitis, an autoimmune disease that causes progressive destruction of the bile ducts in the liver, when she became one of the oldest, if not the oldest, person in Philadelphia to receive a liver transplant.
Afterward, as the drugs she was taking helped her improve, Mrs. Cohen became involved in longevity studies designed to understand which drugs worked best for transplant recipients. Optimistic and active throughout her life, she embraced her second chance immediately.