A young woman endured liver failure for four years before her life was saved by an anonymous donor.
Staff nurse Olivia Price, 27, from Wolverhampton, was just 10-weeks-old when she was diagnosed with rare disease Biliary Atresia, which means she was born without a bile duct to drain from the liver.
Initial surgery seemed to resolve the condition until 2014, when Ms Price’s liver began to fail. For four years she patiently waited on the transplant list, unable to improve her state of health for good. Then, in March 2018, she underwent a 10-hour transplant, which has changed her life.
Now, she’s urging others to donate organs in the event of their death.
Waiting game: Olivia Price, from Wolverhampton, was diagnosed with liver disease at 10 weeks
Testing: She spent four long years on the transplant list before undergoing surgery in 2018
‘As a baby, my mum recognised that I’d become jaundiced, which can happen in newborns but it usually resolves itself after two weeks,’ said Ms Price.
‘I remained yellow for longer than two weeks, so my parents became increasingly concerned. I had a blood test at the GP and was then referred to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital after my Liver Function Tests came back abnormal.
‘At 10 weeks old I was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia and scarring on my liver, so I had to have a Kasai operation at 10-and-a-half weeks old to create a bile duct which would temporarily stabilise me and stop my liver from scarring any further.
‘I was in the hospital for a total of three weeks for that operation, which was a success and it kept me going until my liver started to show signs of failure in 2014.’
She added: ‘I always knew I’d need a liver transplant for as long as I can remember. My condition developed from birth so I had an operation to create a bile duct but that was only a temporary fix until my liver couldn’t cope any longer.
‘I started having black stools due to oesophageal bleeding, and then developed ascites [the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal region]. Soon after I developed this, it became infected.’
Back on form: The 27-year-old has been able to exercise much more since her transplant
Progress: The nurse is stronger than ever ( L) and may never need another operation (right)
Good news: After waiting for such a long time, Olivia finally received the call to say she had a liver transplant ready in March 2018
Naturally, her ill-health affected her emotionally as well as physically.
‘My liver failure affected me mentally and even impacted my career. I struggled to get through the day without having to have a nap or two. I wasn’t able to work full time as I got increasingly more exhausted and I didn’t go out much or socialise because all I wanted to do was rest.’
However, since receiving her transplant, she has seen her life return to normal after facing a lengthy recovery process. Now, she’s even allowed to go on holiday.
‘It’s been hard but so worth it. Within a few weeks of my transplant, I was already able to do more than I had done for a while.
‘I didn’t need as much rest and I was able to get through the day without having to stop and take a break. I was back to work after four months and I can now look forward to the future, whereas before my life was just on hold and I didn’t consider the future a lot.
‘I’m mentally and physically better now. I can now actually go on holiday and focus on my career, do exercise and live a normal life.’
Demanding: The medical professional pictured undergoing the 10-hour surgery, last year
Healing process: Ms Price’s stomach three months after having her transplant surgery
In fact, there’s a chance she may never need surgery again.
‘Depending how my liver gets on, I shouldn’t need any further surgery. If I experience any serious complications, then I may need to have another transplant or require surgery to solve any issues.
‘If you’re considering being a donor, just go for it.
‘Imagine how many lives you could save. Talk to your family about it as well and definitely let them know your wishes.’
What are the safeguards to stop infected organs being donated?
Quality control: All donated organs must also undergo a rigorous screening process
-While the risks of passing cancer are small, it can happen
-According to the American Cancer Society it is ok for cancer survivors to donate organs but the type of cancer and other conditions must be considered
-A person who has only recently been diagnosed with cancer must not be allowed to donate their organs
-The decision to use an organ is made by a medical specialist
-The specialist must take into account medical, travel and social history
-All organs must also undergo a rigorous screening process
-A person cannot become an organ donor if they have or are suspected of having: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), Ebola virus disease, Active cancer, HIV or hepatitis C
-Someone who is suffering from active cancer is unable to become an organ donor
-However, it could be possible for someone with certain types of cancers to donate after three years of treatment
-The eyes and some tissue can also be donated in these circumstances
-The organs one can currently donate on the NHS are: Heart, lungs, cornea, liver, pnacreas, small bowel, tissue, kidneys and bone
Source: NHS and American Cancer Society