Organ donation

Sue - Interview 20

Female
Age at interview: 45

Brief outline: Sue had her first liver transplant in 1995, aged 29. This rejected about ten years later. In 2006, she had a second liver transplant, aged 41. Sue leads a busy, active life and advises others to make the most of life.

Background: Sue is married. Ethnic background / nationality' White British.

Audio & video

Until the age of 29, Sue was fit, well and healthy. At 29, she went on holiday to the seaside. There, she ate some seafood and became unwell, yellow and developed a rash. She visited her GP, who thought she had eczema and prescribed her some cream.

Two weeks later, Sue went back to see her GP because she had not improved in any way. She later saw a locum doctor, who told her she had liver failure.

At hospital, Sue was also told that she had only months to live. Tests showed that she’d got hepatitis A and B. Hepatitis occurs when there is inflammation (swelling) of the liver, often caused by a virus. She was transferred to a specialist hospital and assessed for a liver transplant. Sue said she was given very little information about liver transplants at that time. She became increasingly ill and was soon too weak to walk. She had her first liver transplant in 1995, aged 29.

After surgery, the new liver started rejecting and Sue was given medication to stop the rejection. She spent eight months in hospital. When she was well enough to be discharged, she bought a computer and learnt more about liver transplants on the internet.

A month after being discharged, Sue caught a virus and went back into hospital for another two months. There, she met someone who told her about the Transplant Games. She applied to take part and, in 1996, won four medals.

Since her transplant, Sue said she has been back to hospital several times for different problems, including pneumonia and lung disease. In 2005, her liver started rejecting and this was a difficult and depressing time. Sue felt that, this time, she was unlikely to survive and had some counselling to help her through her depression.

In 2006, Sue was admitted into hospital again and assessed for a second liver transplant. She was placed on the transplant waiting list and told that, without a transplant, she could have only three months to live. During this time, she became increasingly weak, yellow and found it hard to eat.

In August 2006, Sue had her second liver transplant and, three weeks later, was discharged from hospital. She recovered well but, in 2008, developed pleurisy of the lung, for which she had surgery. Pleurisy is inflammation of the pleura, the double-layered membrane (covering) that surrounds the lungs.

Sue said her first donor was a 42-year-old male who died of a brain tumour. Her second donor was a woman who had died in a road traffic accident. She wrote to both the donor families and contacts them annually around Christmas. She is very grateful to them and said that, without the transplants, she would not be alive today. 

Sue wondered how she had got liver disease in the first place as she had never drunk alcohol. She felt that her lungs were no longer as strong as before and that her kidney function had been affected by the anti-rejection medications. However, she urged people to get on with life and enjoy it as much as possible, as she did herself.  
 

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