Rebecca had a lifesaving liver transplant in 2020 after suddenly falling ill. She shares her story and why she's taking on a skydive this summer to support liver patients. Thank you, Rebecca!
"As I sat by the river with my friends in July 2020 celebrating my birthday, I had no idea that the symptoms I had were to lead to a transplant. Yes, I felt a bit itchy and scratchy, and weary (that dog-tired feeling that I couldn’t shift). I felt bloated in my ever expanding gut – put down to the lockdown diet and I brushed it off. I had spoken with my GP who thought it could be food poisoning but the tests were inconclusive.
"A week later I woke up with yellow skin and eyes – surely that wasn’t right? The NHS 111 service suggested a visit to the out-of-hours doctor who informed me 'I wasn’t that yellow'. That weekend I surfed from the sofa to my bed sleeping most of the time and feeling a distinct lack of hunger.
"I went to see my local GP and they instructed me to go to A&E for them to admit me I stayed there two nights with no conclusive diagnosis. I was turning yellower and continued to be incredibly tired. My urine was the colour of cola and my faeces was the colour of pale clay. Something was wrong - the doctors and I didn’t know what.
"Luckily the gastroenterologist at the hospital called me at home after I had been discharged to let me know that the blood tests had been completed incorrectly and I needed to go back in as one test seemed to show something was wrong.
"Forty-eight hours later in an ambulance journey to the Birmingham QE liver unit I was relieved that finally someone had taken my symptoms seriously. The following few days were a series of tests and diagnostic procedures that sometimes were horrible. Finally, my consultant surgeon told me I needed a liver transplant 'super urgently' - my liver had 10% function and was dying. My first reaction was tears and total fear – I knew nothing about transplants and thought this meant a death sentence. I remember asking both doctors just to get me home to my family.
"The liver team were nothing short of amazing in the education of how a transplant is the gift of life, what the procedure was and how my life would be after the transplant. They also supported my daughter and partner in answering their questions and allaying their fears. I moved down to the ITU ward which seemed daunting but in reality my health was declining and the nurses took care of me so well. Three days later and they had a liver for me - the operation went well. Post-surgery it took ten days of recuperation to finally get home.
"Seven months later on reflection yellow was never my colour! I will be ever grateful to my fantastic donor. I see things quite differently these days. The important thing to me is the time with my daughter - seeing her grow into a young woman. I have enjoyed noticing the little things, be that the change of the seasons or the birds that visit my garden.
"I was diagnosed with seronegative hepatitis. My team think it could be autoimmune hepatitis but they're not 100% sure. It’s hard not having a firm clinical diagnosis - it would be nice to know.
Leap for Liver
I still need a little time to get back to 100% but I am confident I am going in the right direction. 2020 was a challenging year but it has taught me some lessons I needed reminding of. Now it’s time to repay and raise funds for the British Liver Trust who helped me and will continue to help me and new patients going forward. This is why I am taking a Leap for Liver by participating in a skydive challenge as their work means so much to me!
"I thank my donor to whom I am indebted to, who gave me a second chance at life and his family for the generous gift they gave me, so I can celebrate life with my loved ones.
"I also thank the truly outstanding team at the liver unit in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for the gift of life I received.