Paddy McGovern received a liver transplant.

‘I was living with a time bomb’

A Killinkere man has shared his experience of waiting for a liver transplant in a bid to encourage people to consider signing up for organ donation.

Paddy McGovern faced a sudden decline in his health from Christmas Day 2019, which culminated in a liver transplant the following year.

He was diagnosed with Primary Schlerosing Cholangitis in 2008, a progressive degenerative disease, but lived with it without any major issues thanks to his good health and healthy lifestyle.

However, Christmas 2019 saw things changed quickly.

“My decline was very sudden and resulted in several hospital admissions and interventions during the early months of 2020. I was advised that my situation was not likely to improve and after a short time I was experiencing very serious symptoms,” recalls Paddy.

“By late March I was being considered for a liver transplant. Following another serious set-back in May, I was placed on the transplant short list. Within a month, I was admitted once again to hospital and it became clear that I needed a transplant urgently and could not return home.”

Paddy was kept under specialist care for the following four weeks, with his condition continuing to deteriorate.

“I was advised during this time that I was living with a time bomb. I was seriously ill when I received the news that a donor liver had become available. It is not an exaggeration to state that this news had come to me just in time.”

Over 200 organ transplants were carried out across the country last year, 34 of those liver transplants. The majority of organ donations came from deceased donors.

While he had a long road to full recovery ahead, Paddy says the impact of the new liver on his body was immediate: “Within 24 hours my donor liver had repaired my body and I now looked like the person I used to be the colour of life was already in my face. I had received an amazing liver. Within 36 hours my donor liver had removed most of the toxins that were causing my extreme ill health. After three days I was eating and mobile and on the road to a rapid recovery.”

It took 52 days from his operation before Paddy was allowed home.

The HSE has described 2021 as “a challenging year” as the pandemic continued to impact on the health service.

The Organ Donation Transplant Ireland Office coordinated the 203 transplants that took place across the country’s three centres.

Only kidneys can be donated by a living donor, with liver, heart and pancreas transplants all being carried out thanks to the willingness of families to donate their loved one’s organs.

That’s something noted by the HSE’s Clinical Lead for Organ Donation, Dr Catherine Motherway:

“On behalf of ODTI, intensive care staff, transplant teams and transplant recipients I wish to thank and honour the memory of our deceased donors. Organ donation saves and changes lives. It is an honour to be able to work with families who time and time again find it in themselves when faced with the sudden death of a loved one to think of others. We cannot express enough our gratitude. In death our donors give life.”

The Health Minister is expected to bring legislation to cabinet in the coming weeks which would put in place an ‘opt-out’ system of organ donation. However, the consent of a person’s next of kin would still be required under the new legislation.