In September 2005, as my family was reeling from the rapid deterioration of my mother’s health from lung cancer, I started feeling very ill myself. I turned yellow with severe jaundice. At an emergency GP appointment I was told me to take a cab to hospital immediately and the doctor rang ahead to get them ready to admit me. Something was horribly wrong with my liver.
I made an appointment to see one of the specialists at the amazing Kings College Hospital Liver Unit who soon diagnosed me with a rare disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, a randomly occurring condition without any known cause. My health continued to deteriorate, and I was in and out of hospital with infections. On one particularly awful evening as I lay alone in a hospital bed I was called by my brother to tell me that my mum had passed away with the rest of the family around her. That was one of my all-time lows.
I was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant, and in the meantime scheduled for a operation to put in a temporary measure to try and help my ailing liver. Fortunately this helped me make a temporary recovery, be removed from the transplant list, and I even managed to get back to work in early 2006.
I remained gaunt, tired, slightly jaundiced and had difficulty retaining concentration. I maintained this for two years before being rushed in to A&E in August 2008 for chronic pain, and started to deteriorate again. I went back on the liver transplant waiting list, and had to go on sick leave. Those months were a nightmare of hospital visits and sleepless nights, jumping every time the phone went in case it was ‘the call’ to come in and have the operation. The chance of me getting further complications and infections increased every day.
After a false alarm in early 2009, I finally got the call on the 4th of February. Somewhere in Midlands a family in the middle of despair and grief at the loss of their sister/mother made the breathtakingly generous decision to allow her organs to be used for donation, and I was lucky enough to receive her liver.
My life was saved. After just over two weeks in hospital I was allowed home. After only a few more weeks I was popping in to my school to help out. By April I was back in teaching, by May I managed to get back in to my big hobby of latin-american dance, and I even managed to meet my partner who I had a civil partnership with in 2010.
At the wedding we asked all of our guests to give generously to the Kings College Hospital charity in lieu of gifts, and, most importantly, sign up to the organ donation register and tell their loved ones to do the same.
Every one person who dies (and whose family agree to donate their organs) can save as many as ten other lives, and bring joy and relief to families. All it takes is for you and your friends and relations to sign up to the register, and tell everyone you know that if the worst should happen, they must give their consent.
My wish this Christmas is that you agree to give this most precious of gifts. Sign up today, and save lives.