Mountlake Terrace man puts his heart into liver awareness

Forrest Reda in training. (Photos courtesy Forrest Reda)

Mountlake Terrace resident Forrest Reda will run the New York City Marathon to raise liver transplant awareness after donating a portion of his own. 

Reda will be running the marathon on Sunday, Nov. 5. He will be raising money for New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NYPH) as a member of the hospital’s Team Rehab, which Reda credits to his and his brother-in-law’s recovery after surgery.

Reda donated 40% of his liver to his brother-in-law, Ankush Tandon, who had primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a slowly advancing and eventually fatal disease. The only known cure is a liver transplant. The surgery was successfully performed in February 2023.

Forrest Reda takes a selfie with Ankush Tandon once he was moved from the intensive care unit.

Although Reda’s gallbladder had to be removed and is gone for good, Reda said that 97% of his liver had grown back within nine months.

“It’s like an electric car battery where the first 20-80% charge is really quick,” Reda explained. “The last bit is like a trickle of growth.”

Before you think of the liver as a renewable resource, he said a living liver donation can only happen once.

“I can’t do this for anyone else; it’s one and done,” Reda said.

While some refer to their heart as a source of emotion, references to the liver are usually a joke related to alcohol or drug consumption. It’s a perception Reda hopes to help clear up by spreading awareness.

L-R, Forrest Reda and Neesha Tandon at their wedding with Ankush Tandon (center), Benu Tandon (Neesha and Ankush’s mother) Kunal Tandon (Neesha and Ankush’ brother).

When Reda’s mother-in-law was visiting from New York in December 2021, she received the phone call no parent should get. Tandon – who had never abused tobacco, alcohol or drugs – needed a liver transplant to survive and was placed on a recipient list. 

Reda’s first instinct was to offer up a portion of his liver, but he was worried that the reckless exuberance of his youth would leave him with middle-aged regrets and an ineligible liver. 

Although he had done his share of partying at Phish concerts, Burning Man Festivals and had worked with “one-hit wonder bands” in the 1990s, Reda stayed physically active. He discovered that healthy eating, hiking and running seemed to offset his illicit recreations, and his liver was an eligible candidate.

“I was completely forthright with the doctor about every single illegal narcotic I’ve sampled through my youth,” Reda said. “The biggest thing was, I never smoked (cigarettes).”

Doctors told Reda that smoking causes far more damage to the liver than certain substances. Most medical institutions worldwide automatically disqualify smokers, even if they had quit years before volunteering to be a donor.

Six weeks after receiving his transplanted liver, a masked Ankush Tandon supports his “brother-in-liver” Forrest Reda, center, and Team Rehab captain Dr. Jaspal “Ricky” Singh for a New York City mini-marathon.

To train for the marathon, Reda said he runs at least four miles three to four days a week, with a 10-mile run on the weekend. His favorite routes near Mountlake Terrace usually include linking the Interurban Trail with the sidewalks and roads of Edmonds, Lynnwood, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park. 

He supplements his runs with hiking, bike rides, walking his dogs and jogging on the treadmill during Seattle Seahawk games.

Even if people can’t support his marathon run, Reda has a simple suggestion to help with organ donations that anyone can do across the U.S.

“Tick that box on your driver’s license to donate your organs,” Reda said. “You can’t take it with you; let it go and let other people live.” 

Benu Tandon, Ankush Tandon, Alia Tandon (being held), Neesha Tandon, Forrest Reda, Kunal Tandon, Zahra Reynolds and baby Issa Tandon gather for a family reunion in Maine.

Learn more about Reda and Tandon’s transplant journey here.

To support Reda and Team Rehab, click here.

— By Rick Sinnett

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