Seeing in the New Years in 2012 with friends and family was important to me and although I was feeling a little unwell with a cough I was determined to not miss out. Disappointingly the cough still hadn’t disappeared when I went back to start the new term in my job as a teaching assistant in Bath on the 4th January.
Over the next few weeks of repeated visits to the doctors and courses of antibiotics I was finally signed off work as the cough and feeling sick had persisted. I noticed my urine was now looking very dark and I also noticed, alarmingly, the whites of my eyes had developed a yellow tinge. I initially put this down to the high amount of medication I had taken over the previous month but instinct told me I had to consult my doctor yet again. The doctor agreed all was not right and ordered blood and urine tests together with a series of scans.
Over the weeks my skin colour was now becoming more yellow along with the whites of my eyes I was still working but starting to feel quite unwell. The doctor called and said my blood tests had come back and something called my bilirubin was 151 which was high – it should normally be 20 or less. I was asked to go back to the doctors the following week where they ran more blood tests.
Over the weekend I was becoming more unwell, being sick, crying, not wanting to do anything, which wasn’t me; it was Mothering Sunday but I was just too poorly to enjoy it. On Tuesday 20th March after my three children Ed, Louis and Emerald had gone to school I decided enough was enough and booked into Royal United Hospital A&E stating I was jaundiced and kept being sick. I was quickly taken into a cubicle where an ECG was carried out along with various blood tests. A consultant came to see me and told me there was something wrong with my liver and that I needed to go to a specialist liver unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Unfortunately they didn’t have a bed available for me so I had to stay at the RUH whilst they took instructions from the specialists at QEH about my care. I was happy with this and thought I didn’t need to go to QEH because they could look after me in Bath and I would get to go home sooner. Little did I realise what was going to happen.
Over the next two weeks blood tests, scans, and a scary sounding Trans jugular biopsy were carried out. Talk of QEH was becoming more probable. My skin was becoming more yellow, however I was still walking, talking, laughing and eating. As a result, I didn’t realise just how sick I really was until consultants came to see me and to tell me I had to go to the QEH in Birmingham immediately. They said I was very sick and there was a chance I might need a liver transplant.
The next afternoon they said a bed had been made available and so off I went with blue flashing lights up the motorway to Birmingham, still thinking that they were going to give me some medication and I would be back at home soon.
My first day in hospital was my 39th birthday, and the next day was filled with numerous blood tests and scans, but I was still unaware of what was about to happen. The following Wednesday was spent having another biopsy of my liver and further scans. Then, on Thursday 5th April, just after tea, a nurse that neither my husband nor I recognised came into the room and introduced herself as a transplant coordinator. I still didn’t comprehend what was about to happen despite the fact that consultants had said there was a possibility of a transplant. I was ok I thought, very yellow but still walking, still talking and eating but not quite believing what was going to happen.
Then she spoke: “Amanda, you are a very ill and the consultants have asked me to come and talk to you about a liver transplant. You are going to be put on the list for transplant and as you are so seriously ill you are being listed as ‘super urgent’ – only three people nation wide can be put on this list and you are number two”. It was then the enormity of the situation hit home and I decided now it was ok to cry.
I was just finishing my rice crispies on Saturday morning, April 7th when a transplant nurse came in and told me that they had a liver for me, to which I replied “I’ve just had my breakfast!” I was told the consultant was making sure it was a viable liver but then hopefully it would be all systems go. Thankfully, it was viable and at 2pm on Easter Saturday I was in theatre under the amazing care of Mr Simon Bramhall and his team. My transplant took 6 hours after which I was in ITU for a few days before being transferred onto the HDU where my road to recovery started. Despite a few days of mild forms of rejection, I had high doses of IV steroids pumped into me which basically told my new liver to behave and get on with its job.
I never realised that I would have to learn to walk, talk, eat and do all the things I could do before the transplant but I was given the most amazing care by all the staff at QEH, who helped me, shall I say, get my life back. Was I scared? Yes of course I was, but I knew I would be going home eventually. I am fitter than ever now and realising just how important life is; there is only one person who I can thank for being the biggest help in getting my life back and that is my donor – my special hero.
I had never realised just how important organ donation was until I became a recipient. So at present I am busy raising awareness to encourage people to read about organ donation and hopefully to make the decision to join the organ donation register. Eventually not just the people who need a transplant, but also their family and friends will receive the help they so desperately need. If it hadn’t been for the kindness of a stranger my own family and friends would still be coming to terms with losing me.