When Lisa was three years old, she suffered acute liver failure and was given a life-saving liver transplant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Now, 30 years on, she is married with a daughter of her own, and works for a global media organisation. Here she tells her story and explains why she felt now was the time she wanted to give back.
I must confess I have only two memories of being in hospital for my liver transplant. I remember sitting in a circle and playing with other children on the ward and also riding a trike up and down. And that’s it! Which I think is probably a good thing as those are good memories.
I do recall that while I was at primary school, I had to go to Birmingham Children’s Hospital at least every three to six months for check- ups. But I don’t remember thinking much about it – I just accepted it. It was my teenage years that were probably the most impactful. I rebelled, I didn’t want to take my medication and I wanted to be out with my friends all the time. Having to pack meds as a 14 year old for sleepovers was a pain, but in hindsight not the end of the world. In terms of my health, I wasn’t more sick than your average young person. Although I did suffer from ear infections quite a bit. I also remember getting pneumonia once and it completely wiped me.
Although my liver condition was a nuisance to me at that time, it wasn’t something I ever worried about. My parents made my life as normal as possible and I grew up just like any other kid doing normal things. That’s a credit to them to be honest.
One issue which did pop up at one of my appointments was the question of whether I would be able to have children. It was all a bit of an unknown then and I remember feeling like a choice was being taken away from me which I hadn’t experienced before. When I was an adult and wanted to explore it more, I met with a midwifery consultant who put my mind at rest completely and also explained that the medication I was on was fine to use in pregnancy and breast feeding.
I am now mum to a beautiful five year old girl and I cannot even begin to imagine what my parents went through when they were my age with me. I don’t feel old enough to cope with something so life changing!
Having Eira certainly made me think slightly differently… I can’t get life insurance so I have to think through scenarios like that very carefully. When COVID hit and there were no vaccines, I was terrified that I might not see her grow up. Thankfully that’s over now but the thought still remains sometimes.
I now live in Cardiff with my husband, our daughter and my two step children. I’m a business coordinator for a global media organisation and have recently taken on a communications lead role. I love my career and I’ve been fortunate enough to work for several large businesses who have been really supportive of hospital visits and any time off I need.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with liver cirrhosis which is being closely monitored by the team in Cardiff. I’ve had multiple different scans, investigative procedures and a biopsy in the last 12 months. It knocked me hard at the beginning as I’ve always been well and if I haven’t, doctors have been able to fix it. This time though, the future in terms of transplant or no transplant is unknown and depends on how well my liver copes. I trust the NHS though and they will make the right decisions when necessary.
I know how fortunate I am to have received a successful transplant as this was really the early days of liver transplants in children. So my 30 year anniversary seemed like a good opportunity to give something back to two very important charities: CLDF were a huge help to my parents during my transplant period, putting them in touch with other families going through the same thing and providing lots of information. And British Liver Trust is the charity I go to now for more information about my current condition and I love their on the road liver screening programme!
So I came up with the idea of a garden party which started off as a small idea but just grew and grew. It was huge amount of work, but really fun at the same time. I’m so grateful to all my family who helped out in the lead up to it and on the day. I was amazed at how generous people were with their donations. I thought having a target of £500 would be a challenge so to hit over £3.5k was just astounding and so humbling.
To any young person who is growing up having been through liver transplant, I would say – live life like your just another teenager. Those days don’t last for long and they will hold your lasting and some of the most treasured memories. Also listen to your consultants… they really do know best! Although you might think you know yourself better as a teenager, they’re just trying to look after you for the foreseeable future so pay attention at appointments!