Organ donation

Liz - Interview 27

Age at interview: 40

Brief outline: Liz had a kidney transplant in 1990, aged 19. The donor was her mother. Both she and Liz recovered well. Liz went on to have two daughters and to become a professional musician. She is a professor of music at the conservatoire she studied at.

Background: Liz is a professional musician. She is divorced and has two daughters. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

Audio & video

Liz had a good childhood, did her ‘O’ levels and, at age 16, won a music scholarship to study in the local private school. There, however, she was bullied because she came from a less affluent background, and this affected Liz very badly. Over Christmas, she had a terrible flu and, in February 1988, woke up one morning to find she had a rash all over her legs.

Later, Liz was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura, a disease of the skin and other organs that most commonly affects children. In the skin, the disease causes palpable purpura (small haemorrhages), often with joint and stomach pain. In a small number of cases, it can cause chronic kidney disease. Liz believes this and the streptococcal virus she later had, was brought on by the stress caused by the bullying at school. This virus is a type of pharyngitis that affects the pharynx, including the tonsils and possibly the larynx.  

Liz spent the next eighteen months in and out of hospital. By July 1989, she was very ill, often vomiting up to nineteen times a day. She managed to pass her ‘A’ levels and was accepted at a prestigious music school.

From the summer of 1989, however, Liz’s health deteriorated further and her kidneys were becoming less and less effective. Although she was supposed to start music college in September that year, her kidneys failed and she had to go on dialysis. Liz said, ‘I did feel that my world had fallen apart by then. I was supposed to be at Music College. I was coming up for 19. I’d just spent the last two years being ill… I was very ill on dialysis; I dropped to seven and a half stone. I’m not supposed to be a size zero but it was pushing it. Obviously the diet that I had was restricted.’

Liz had dialysis for nine months, the most testing time of all. Twice she had septicaemia (blood poisoning) and needed blood transfusions. Her father began tests to find out if he could donate one of his kidneys to her but these showed that he was unsuitable. Her mother was also tested, and donated one of her kidneys to Liz on 29th May 1990. Both Liz and her mother recovered well.

That September, Liz started music college and made up for the socialising and partying she had missed out on growing up. She also completed her degree, post-graduate studies and is now a professional double bass player. She is a professor of music at the college she studied at.

In 1991, Liz participated in the British Transplant Games and now competes every two years. She got married in 1998 and had two daughters. This was a big decision and Liz said both her children had to be induced. Both were and continue to be well. Liz also looks after herself and trains regularly so she can be fit enough to participate in the Games.

In 2010, however, Liz had problems in her personal life and she said that, despite going through a major experience such as a transplant, she had never had any counselling. Twenty years after her transplant, she began to realise the enormity of it and said, ‘I felt this big weight coming down on me and really worrying about things.’ She had felt unsettled for some time. Liz later met someone new and left her marriage. She felt that her illness and transplant had contributed to the breakdown of the marriage and benefited from the support of a counsellor.

Liz has follow-up care every three months and takes medication daily. She lives a full life and praised the support she got from her family, spiritual faith and music. She is also a trustee for Transplant Support Network, a nationwide network that provides telephone support to patients, family and carers of all solid organ transplants (http'// 


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