Phil Mitchell has had a liver transplant on the Christmas Day EastEnders special. The soap has been raising awareness of liver disease over the past year and the story reached a dramatic climax in today’s episode. Phil was diagnosed with liver disease last year and became eligible for a transplant after stopping drinking for more than six months.
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said, “Unfortunately Phil’s alcohol related health problems are not unique or that unusual, currently in the UK we have an epidemic of liver disease and still the main cause of death from liver disease is alcohol related. It is the third leading cause of premature death in the UK – but is misunderstood and rarely considered in the way that other serious health conditions so it’s really important that EastEnders have chosen to tackle this serious problem.
Although heavy drinkers like Phil are at risk of damaging their livers, it’s important to remember that a large proportion who suffer with alcohol related liver disease may not be drinking as much as he does. A common myth is that you have to be an alcoholic to get liver disease but many people in the UK are drinking too much on a regular basis and putting their livers at risk. Being overweight is another major risk factor.
I would urge everyone in the UK to think seriously about the amount they are drinking. Try to drink within the recommended guidelines and importantly have two to three consecutive days off alcohol every week. By doing this you will give your liver a rest and allow it to recover before too much damage is done.
The average waiting time for a liver transplant is 145 days for adults and like Phil you must have been abstinent for over six months. It is truly amazing to see the transformation once people have had a successful liver transplant and how many go on to lead full and healthy lives. The UK has one of the lowest rates in Europe for families supporting organ donation and the British Liver Trust would urge everyone to tell your loved ones that you want to sign up to be an organ donor and want this respected if the need occurs – it really can mean the gift of life.”
The British Liver Trust hopes that this EastEnders storyline will help all of us have a much better awareness of the damage alcohol can cause and a more compassionate understanding of how and why Phil is causing himself so much harm and the devastating affect this is having on his wife, son, daughter and others. It is creditworthy that the EastEnders’ team have ensured that this is being portrayed as realistically as possible and have paid such attention to show how so many are affected when a family member has alcohol related liver disease.
Every EastEnders fan can also take stock of their own liver health and assess their risk by completing the Trust’s Love Your Liver health screener www.loveyourliver.org.uk.
Like Phil’s family on the soap they should also consider organ donation – it really can be the gift of life https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk//register-to-donate/