I had my first of six liver transplants when I was months old and the second from a living donor, my mum. The impact of suddenly being told at six weeks that your child has liver disease and having to watch your son, firstborn, go through all this pain and trauma must have been unbearable at times. She is remarkable as a person and as a mum for my sister Zara and myself. I love her so much.
This life has always been my norm; I was in and out of hospital so many times I’d call it home. My third transplant, at 11 years old, was the real wake-up call. I went through full liver failure step-by-step and it was brutal. Even at that age they didn’t hide the truth from me. I had to accept that if I didn't get a donor then I was going to die. No child should ever have to even think that at that age, let alone accept it.
There are no words to thank everyone. My surgeon, Prof. Nigel Heaton, his team, the nurses, the cleaning staff. They all contribute to keeping you alive and they’re a testimony to the NHS. Nigel, as I now call him by first name, won’t let anyone else near me and he never gives up on me.
I just try to have a laugh and a joke with everyone. I’ve always had that humour from my mum and my late father. They had this attitude that was like, this is the situation and I’ll moan about it but you just have to get on with it. You can’t change it, all you can do is fight to achieve what you want to achieve. When you get dealt cards like this, there’s no other way of coping. There’s no point in being here if you spend your time worrying or moaning – that’s no way to live.
Some people ask how I’ve had six transplants when some people can’t get one, and I accept that. But you must make the most of the opportunity you’re given. Go to school, go to college, do as much as you can. Never give in and go for what you want.
It’s had a massive impact on everyone and I can’t thank my mum, sister or NHS enough. My sister had to start uni while I was in hospital and at a younger age, she was moved from pillar to post being looked after by different people when mum was in hospital with me. She’s had to deal with all of that as well as her own life.
Today’s generation is especially brilliant. They’ll go on the internet and happily sign up for organ donation. The problem is when people don’t tell anyone. If anything happened to you, it’s down to your relatives to decide. Even if you’ve signed up, they have the right to say no, so it’s important to make your wishes known.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that we should look after and preserve life. There are no words to thank my donors; I’m just so grateful. It is mind blowing and I know it’s not an easy decision to make, but it’s the best gift any human could give.