Ken Plummer is a retired Professor of Sociology, and has celebrated over thirty years of his gay partnership.
Whilst visiting California in 2005, he was diagnosed with liver failure after suffering a long list of symptoms.
It all began with dramatic weight gain, poor mobility and lethargy, and it got progressively worse till he was vomiting half a small sink of blood without warning. The most terrifying symptom Ken experienced was encephalopathy – periods of memory loss and mental confusion which were so bad he began to lose all grasp of reality.
On diagnosis he learnt that 80% of his liver was non- functional and covered in scar tissue that did not perform the tasks a liver should. The cause was alcohol: he had been a very heavy – but social- drinker for over forty years. He started as a young gay man and continued throughout his adult life. Originally he drunk lager, then wine, rarely spirits – they fuelled social occasions and brought no obvious problems. On diagnosis he gave up drink totally and immediately – and without any difficulties. This was partly because he was so ill he simply did not want to drink; partly because his partner stopped at the same time; and partly through sheer will power. It seemed to be a matter of life and death, and continuing drinking was not an option. Drinking had to stop.
After tests, Ken was put on the waiting list for a liver transplant in May 2006 and had the ten hour surgery nine months later in February 2007. After a few months recovering, he has returned to a full and enjoyable life. He has six- monthly check ups and is doing well.