Liver disease can develop at any age.
At just 35, Zoe Alexander was rushed to hospital with acute liver failure, her life was turned upside down and she wondered whether she would ever see her husband and two young children again. Admitted to King’s College Hospital in London she had a limited chance of survival.
Zoe had been living for a short time in the West Indies while her husband was working there but had returned to the UK to care for her terminally ill father. She noticed that her hands and feet were itchy and on consulting her GP discovered her Liver Function Tests (LFTs) were abnormal. A liver biopsy was proposed but after further tests, including a CT scan and ultrasound, came back clear, Zoe was allowed to return to the West Indies.
Within a few weeks she became jaundiced and she began to worry. ‘I’d been trekking in Costa Rica and I’d also had a blood transfusion when I had Sebastian 18 months previously. My LFT’s were getting worse not better and yet I was Hep A,B,C negative. All sorts of things went through my mind. I was deteriorating rapidly,” she recalls, “and saying and doing strange things as my liver was unable to process the toxins in my body.”
Flown back to England, she returned home but collapsed and was rushed to A & E. Transferred to King’s she underwent a liver transplant but the liver was rejected after seven weeks and Zoe and her family had to face the trauma of a second transplant. Happily it was a complete success.
“Acute liver failure hits you so fast,” says Zoe. “I am very lucky. I owe so much to my donor(s), their families and the wonderful medical staff who saved my life – twice. It has changed me. You realise just how fragile we are. Some things are out of our control. The hardest part was being without my children for the months I was in hospital. I feel it is my duty having been given a chance of life to share my experiences with others in the hope that they will see how amazing organ donation and transplantation really is, I am living proof’.