GP made his­tory af­ter mul­ti­ple or­gan trans­plants

Cynon Valley - - NEWS - MARK SMITH mark.smith@waleson­

CYSTIC fibrosis pa­tient Al­li­son An­gell made med­i­cal his­tory when she be­came the first per­son in the UK to have all her ma­jor or­gans trans­planted.

By the time she had reached the mid­way point of uni­ver­sity, the Rhondda GP had re­ceived a new liver, heart, lungs and kid­ney af­ter hers were dam­aged by her in­cur­able con­di­tion.

De­spite her decades of ill-health, she mirac­u­lously man­aged to com­plete med­i­cal school, qual­ify as a GP, and now helps oth­ers over­come their own med­i­cal prob­lems.

“I cel­e­brate four birth­days each year: one for my heart and lungs in Au­gust, one for my liver in Septem­ber, my kid­ney in De­cem­ber and my ac­tual birth­day in May,” said Al­li­son, who turns 40 in a month’s time.

“They are days to re­flect as well as cel­e­brate; to recog­nise those peo­ple who have lost their loved ones and al­lowed me to live.

“All I have ever wanted to do is lead a nor­mal life. It still feels a bit like Rus­sian Roulette about what will hap­pen to me in the fu­ture.

“But I’m quite prag­matic about it all, es­pe­cially be­ing a doc­tor. If it’s not work­ing you have to re­place it. You just have to get on with it.”

Al­li­son, who is orig­i­nally from Fish­guard in Pem­brokeshire, said her health trou­bles first be­gan when she was just seven years old.

She dis­cov­ered she was one of the 10% of cystic fibrosis pa­tients who also has liver dis­ease.

“I started get­ting re­ally poorly when I was about 14 – I was put on the trans­plant list at 16 and had it at 17,” said Al­li­son, who had the first trans­plant in Ad­den­brookes Hos­pi­tal, Cam­bridge.

“The op­er­a­tion was 11 hours long and came with lots of com­pli­ca­tions.

“Pri­mar­ily cystic fibrosis af­fects the lungs and due to the com­pli­ca­tions of my ini­tial trans­plant my lungs started to de­te­ri­o­rate quite fast af­ter that.”

In 1997, at the age of 19, Al­li­son un­der­went a heart and lung trans­plant at Pap­worth Hos­pi­tal in Cam­bridge.

“In those days they did lung and heart trans­plants at the same time,” she said.

“I think of it as like tak­ing an en­gine out of a car. It was more fid­dly tak­ing just one of the or­gans out.”

Al­li­son said her healthy heart was trans­planted into David Hamil­ton, a man from Maid­stone in Kent who she ended up hav­ing a meal with just a fort­night af­ter their pro­ce­dures.

“My mum and dad met his fam­ily in the can­teen be­fore I had the op­er­a­tion,” she said.

“Af­ter about two weeks of be­ing kept on dif­fer­ent wards we went for a meal to­gether. I was 19 at the time and pretty care­free. I just took ev­ery­thing in my stride.

“We both had half a shandy and toasted each other. Our fam­i­lies still re­main friends and I ended up giv­ing David 14 ex­tra years of his life be­fore he passed away.”

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful pro­ce­dure Al­li­son was well enough to start a neu­ro­science de­gree at Cardiff Uni­ver­sity.

But dur­ing her fourth year she was dev­as­tated to dis­cover she had been di­ag­nosed with kid­ney fail­ure, forc­ing her to take three years off.

“As a re­sult of the strong an­tibi­otics I had been tak­ing it af­fected my kid­neys,” she added.

“I was told it was im­pos­si­ble to study and do dial­y­sis be­cause it is so time-con­sum­ing and you feel ab­so­lutely ter­ri­ble. I had to give it up.

“I went onto another trans­plant wait­ing list but my dad David John de­cided to give me his kid­ney.

“If it wasn’t for the doc­tors and sur­geons at the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal of Wales and my dad I would never have been able to go back and ful­fil my dream of be­com­ing a doc­tor.”

Now work­ing as a GP in Tony­pandy, Rhondda, Al­li­son said she was de­lighted to be able to give some­thing back to the NHS.

“I don’t feel like what I’ve been through has made me a bet­ter GP but it has helped me em­pathise with pa­tients. I feel like I can re­late to them more,” she added.

She said one of the big­gest strengths in her life came from her best friend Vic­to­ria Lambe, 40, who is also from Fish­guard and moved to Cardiff Uni­ver­sity at the same time.

Deputy head teacher Vic­to­ria, from Pont­canna, Cardiff, has com­pleted a range of an­nual char­ity chal­lenges in­clud­ing the Great North Swim across Lake Win­der­mere and the Cardiff Half Marathon.

But this year she is tak­ing her fundrais­ing ven­tures to a new level by go­ing on a 17-day trek through the Hi­malayas to reach Ever­est’s Base Camp.

All the money raised will go to­wards the Bet­ter Life Ap­peal in a bid to in­crease the num­ber of beds in the All-Wales Cystic Fibrosis Unit at Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal Llan­dough where Al­li­son is reg­u­larly treated.

Vic­to­ria said: “Al­li­son is the bravest, most pos­i­tive per­son in my life and she’s not de­fined by her ill­ness.

“She doesn’t let her phys­i­cal chal­lenges get on top of her.

“She’s some­body who looks for the pos­i­tives in ev­ery­thing.

“She has a can-do, never-give-up at­ti­tude and I’m priv­i­leged to have her as a best friend.

“I wanted to do this trek to give me a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what it’s like to have cystic fibrosis and find it dif­fi­cult to breathe.

“Al­li­son’s hus­band Nathan has been train­ing me by tak­ing me to the Bre­con Bea­cons every week­end.”

To do­nate to Vic­to­ria visit www.just­giv­ing. com/fundrais­ing/ vic­to­ria-lambe

Al­li­son An­gell was the first per­son in the UK to have all of her ma­jor or­gans trans­planted

Al­li­son in hos­pi­tal af­ter one of her op­er­a­tions

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