My liver problem started during the pregnancy of my third child, 14 years ago. My Liver Function Tests were abnormal, but it was thought by my midwife and GP, that these would return to normal, once my baby was born. However, this turned out not to be the case.
For the next year, my GP kept an eye on them, and eventually, I was referred to the Causeway Hospital for further investigation. Following a biopsy, I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC), an autoimmune condition, that my mum had also been diagnosed with some 10 years previously. The diagnosis meant that I was put on Ursodeoxycholic Acid – at the time it was the only medication available to manage the condition. For several years, I remained in reasonably good health, and apart from quite severe tiredness at times, I had no other real symptoms.
That was until about 6 years ago, when I started to lose weight without any effort, and began to frequently suffer from nausea. Immediately, my GP became concerned about my condition, as my LFTs were increasingly showing signs that my liver wasn’t coping very well. He referred me to the Royal and told me to expect some mention of a liver transplant. He was correct. My first consultation with Dr McDougall, brought home to me the very real fact that I was going to need a transplant, at some stage in the future. As the months and years passed, my symptoms worsened and eventually, fatigue and sickness meant time off work as a primary school teacher. I had by now, started to become noticeably jaundiced. Eventually, the inevitable happened, and the time came for my assessment for transplant in King’s. I was put on the transplant list and waited for the call. Months later, that call came. My husband and I made the journey late at night to the air ambulance – a surreal experience for sure, but a relief nonetheless. Unfortunately, after arriving at King’s, I was told that the donor liver was not viable, and I had to return home.
Many people asked me at the time if I felt disappointed, but I didn’t. Instead, I used the opportunity to rehearse what would actually be the real event, only a few weeks later. Thankfully, on 16th April 2019, I did undergo a liver transplant. I spent a week in King’s and returned to Belfast to the Royal. I spent a further 6 weeks in hospital, with a few issues concerning rejection, but once this was sorted, I finally returned home.
I still have PBC. The condition hasn’t gone away, but I have a new, healthy liver, which has saved my life. Words cannot express the overwhelming sense of gratitude I have for my donor. Had he not signed the Organ Donor Register, things could have been different for me. I am so thankful to my donor’s family, for their selfless contribution also.
Lastly, I will be forever grateful to the all the staff who cared for me along the way, in both King’s and the Royal. They do such brilliant work every day, for so many people and without them, many lives would not be saved.