Pat Gilbert has been through the trauma of two liver transplants. Within three weeks of receiving her first liver transplant her body rejected it. Another donor was found with an hour to spare, and was successfully accepted, much to the relief of Pat, and her dedicated husband, John and family. Here’s her story…
Pat’s ordeal began after suffering from persistent itching towards the end of 1978. Everything on her body itched, including under her nails. After visiting the doctor he prescribed calamine. Several months of itching ensued until she was referred to Salisbury Hospital where she underwent a liver biopsy which indicated that Pat had Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC).
PBC is a disease that can, over time, destroy the bile duct tubes linking your liver to your gut. Further symptoms of PBC include constant tiredness which can range in severity, intense itching of any part of the body and, in some cases, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes). PBC can lead to cirrhosis, and in severe cases a liver transplant is the only option. Interestingly, nine out of ten people who suffer from PBC are women.
Pat was put on a fat-free diet and given a form of steroid to take three times a day to relieve the dreaded itch.
In May 1991, following another biopsy, Salisbury Hospital told Pat that she would need a transplant and would be placed on the list. Five weeks later she was sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to have more tests. In July 1991, Pat was given a bleeper which would alert her when a donor was available. A month later she received the news that a donor had been found. The eight-hour operation went well, but after three weeks in and out of the high dependency ward the hunt was on for another liver donor; Pat’s body had begun to reject the new one.
With an hour to spare before Pat’s body rejected the new liver completely, she faced her second operation. Recovery was slow and she was left very weak, weighing just six-stone. Pat left Queen Elizabeth’s three weeks after her second operation.
Since then her life has been far from quiet and directly after receiving her transplants, Pat and John assisted in setting up the Wessex Liver Support Group to help others like them who were either awaiting a transplant or had received one. In particular, John took comfort in the group as it gave him an outlet to speak to others about how he felt about the experience.
Pat is well known and admired in the Ringwood area. She regularly holds coffee mornings raising money for the Trust. On top of this, she works on a volunteer basis at the Trust offices most weeks.