A Doncaster mum who has survived two liver transplants has pressed home the importance of organ donation after being told she was just hours away from death.
Kay Brown, 32, is now on the road to recovery after undergoing life-saving emergency surgery for the second time earlier this year – and says that if it wasn’t for organ donors, she wouldn’t be here to tell her amazing story.
Kay, from Sprotbrough, has told of her incredible battle against the odds to urge others to sign up to the organ donor register.
She said: “Organs from one person can save up to seven lives. I consider myself unlucky because of all the things that I have gone through but also lucky that I am here to tell my story.
“I’ve gone through a lot, but I’m still here and that's down to organ donors and transplants.”
Kay’s ordeal stretches back 16 years to when she was a teenager and had just completed her GCSE exams. Up until that point, she had lived a pretty normal and unremarkable life with her parents Vicky and Michael and brother Thomas.
She said: “I was just a typical teen. I started feeling unwell but put it down to hormones and eating the wrong kind of food and being busy, that kind of thing.
“I was tired but didn’t think too much of it.”
But as her symptoms worsened and her eyes turned yellow, Kay was packed off to the doctor by her concerned mum.
Added Kay: “The blood tests showed their was a problem with my liver. My condition continued to get worse and they told me that my liver was failing and that they needed to transplant it.”
Within days Kay had been transferred to Leeds’ St James’ hospital for the emergency op and was given a 40% chance of the transplant being a success and pulling through.
“When they operated, I had less than 10% of my liver left. I wasn’t in a good way,” she said.
Fortunately, the 2002 operation worked and for a few years, Kay got her life back on track and put the ordeal behind her.
But after feeling unwell again, she was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a rare and chronic liver disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver progressively decrease in size due to inflammation and scarring.
Added Kay: “Although the disease is manageable, its also unpredictable and at the start of this year, I knew things weren’t right.”
Blood tests confirmed more problems with her liver and she was whisked back to St James – where medics battled to improve her condition and save her life.
“They needed to stabilise me so they could make sure I was well enough to go on the transplant list – but a transplant was a last resort,” she said.
“The hospital tried everything to save my liver but nothing helped. The decision was then made that I needed a second transplant but the risks were high.”
“I was told that I had a 50-50 chance of surviving the surgery – but a 100% chance of dying if I didn’t have the surgery. It was a no-brainer.”
After being told that her chances of pulling through were hanging in the balance, Kay made the heart-breaking decision to start putting her affairs in order – including writing moving letters to her family and daughter, Kirsten, six.
“I just sat there in the middle of the night for a few hours sorting everything out,” she said. “The doctors had made it pretty clear that there was a good chance I wouldn’t survive and although it was difficult, I know I had to do it.
“The first time round, I was just a teenager – but this time round I was a mum with a career, children, bills and a house.”
She was told that she could be on the operating table for up to 14 hours – and when her parents and partner Jason received a call just five hours into the procedure, they feared the worst.
“They both had the call at the same time,” she said. “Because it was so quick, they thought they were going to be told they had lost me.”
As it was, the operation had proven to be easier than expected and within several weeks, Kay was back at home – and is now looking forward to the future.
She said: “I am now four months post transplant and I’m here to tell the tale.
“It will be about a year before I am back to how I was before the second op, but I am on a phased return to work and feeling a lot better.
“I know talking about organ donation is not an easy thing for a lot of people, but it is a conversation people need to have.
“Organ transplantation is such a personal thing to so many people. I feel like the luckiest woman alive to still be here for my daughter, partner, family and four step children. I just hope that by telling my tale one more person signs up and that person goes on to save another life like mine.”
For more details about organ donation and join the Organ Donation Register, click HERE