(Cherril Blair from Ballymoney recalls the joy piecing her life back together again, following her transplant in the Spring)

May I begin by expressing my gratitude to everyone in the three hospitals where I was treated – the Royal, where I was  nursed, informed and prepared for what lay ahead by a tremendous team;  King’s College Hospital where my surgery was carried out and the Causeway in Coleraine where my visits became longer and more frequent from 2011 onwards.  I have met so many wonderful people but each seemed to know everything about me – even my love of porridge.

I was placed on the transplant list in March 2013 and gritted my teeth for a long wait – perhaps two years or more.  Despite increasingly frequent bouts of encephalopathy and ascites, I thought I was doing O.K., until after one year I deteriorated suddenly and was admitted to the Royal, feeling pretty low and with failing recognition of my situation.  Four weeks later I was transferred to King’s where I received my liver transplant in early March.

Coming round, I knew I had  a liver for I could see John clearly for the first time in weeks- and he was grinning.  So was I.  From that morning I gave thanks to the family who had thought of others in their time of grief and that has been my waking thought every morning since. Despite the drains and tubes, I was in a state of euphoria.  There were blips but I could not take them under my notice.  When I recall my response to enquiries from medical staff, family and friends, I can only remember how my life had been saved and how dismissive I felt of their problems.  I was so well supported I flew through the next weeks and was soon back in the Royal for recovery.

As I lay in a quiet room, gathering strength, I had the first hints of further incredible experiences ahead.  Memories of my former life washed over me like a tide.  I would wake up chanting the phone numbers of friends – in particular my friend from school days whom I had not been able to visit for four years and whom I had not been able to phone for at least two.  John took down the numbers and soon I was in contact with Olive.  Beth, my support for three years, was able to visit.  From cousin Doreen I caught up on family news. As soon as I could operate my mobile, I set about phoning friends.  I could not stop talking.  My grown sons, who had visited me constantly, chortled as I began to take an active motherly interest in their lives again.  When I caught myself commenting on their hairstyles – they are in their mid-thirties – I stopped and bit my tongue.

The tide became a tidal wave as more questions occurred.  I had to be reminded of friends who had passed away.  I wrote to bereaved families whom I had been unable to visit.  Thankfully John made sure the letters were suitable.  I was reminded of family events, the birth of children, the lives of nieces and nephews, my brother and sister and their families.  My most welcome update was on the development of my four lovely grandchildren and the details of my two year old youngest grandson, with whom I could not wait to engage.  Hearing about the grandchildren was the pleasure of my life.  Would they remember me after three months?  They did.  My two lovely daughters-in-law were constantly in touch.  They had coped with young families alone to allow my sons to visit me.  I began to appreciate how much my illness had affected my loved ones and how much I had to catch up on.

Many of the medical staff remarked on my personality change.  ‘But this is me,’ I kept saying.  I was dependent on their approval and kept checking that I was doing the right thing for my liver.  Having been advised to feed my liver and not eat the small amounts I allowed myself as a person with diabetes, I gloried in steam pudding and custard.  Thank-you, Pat.

I was discharged home and the tidal wave became as tsunami as I took up the reins of my life again.  I visited my mother frequently, catching up on her life as well.  After three months’ isolation, my discharge led to a stream of visitors.  I was in heaven.   In three months I could drive and John and I could have some personal time.  We became used to doing everything together, even my visits to the hairdressers.

With plenty of time to think, I appreciate every day the expertise and kindness which have saved my life and developed me as a person.  Do I believe in miracles? Yes.