Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker is recovering quickly after undergoing a liver transplant Wednesday night in Portland.

Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker is recovering quickly after undergoing a liver transplant Wednesday night in Portland.

"He feels better already," said Commissioner C.W. Smith after speaking Friday with Walker's wife, Andrea.

Walker, 68, has been taken off a breathing machine and could be up and walking soon, said Smith.

"He's cognizant and chit-chatting and wants to know what's going on," he said. "His surgery went better than expected."

Walker is being carefully monitored at the veteran's hospital next to the Oregon Health & Sciences University to determine how well his body is accepting the new liver. An OHSU spokesman said Walker is listed in good condition.

Smith said Walker is receiving steroids and medication for pain control.

The commissioner is expected to be in the hospital for at least two weeks, but will remain in the Portland area for an estimated two months as doctors monitor his health.

Smith said Walker likely will live in his motor home during the time he stays in Portland.

Walker has diabetes and suffers from Crohn's disease, which causes a wasting of the intestines. He has been on a waiting list to receive a liver transplant and received a late-night call summoning him to Portland. After he arrived just after 6 a.m. Wednesday, he underwent a round of tests to make sure his body could receive the donor organ.

The surgery is complicated and requires a large incision in the abdominal area, the removal of the old organ, while leaving blood vessels and bile ducts undamaged.

According to an OHSU manual, liver transplant patients remain hospitalized for about 14 days. Complications could include the risk of infection and the chance that the body will reject the donor organ. Patients must take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.

About 16,000 Americans are awaiting livers as the nation faces a shortage of donors. Last year, about 6,500 liver transplants were performed, according to the American Liver Foundation, but about 1,600 people died during the year while waiting for a donor.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.