JOANNE IS LOVING LIFE AND LIVING IT TO THE FULL
Joanne Adam was sitting down with a cup of coffee and a piece of shortbread when she got the phonecall that would change her life.
She’d been out with her aunt and had just sat down, dunked her shortbread in her coffee and taken a bite when the phone rang.
It was Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge telling her they’d found a match donor for all six of her organs and an ambulance would be at her Johnstone home in the next half hour to collect her. That was at 3.45pm. She and her younger sister Alison arrived in Cambridge at midnight. At 7.30am the next morning, Joanne was on the operating table and underwent a gruelling 18-hour operation to replace her liver, stomach, bowel, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine.
Now, after 12 weeks and three days in hospital, she’s back home and recovering well after having six organ transplants, her spleen removed, and an operation on her brain to ease a build up of fluid.
The mum-of-two is a medical miracle.
Her journey began four years ago in August 2013, when she started having severe stomach pains and was struggling to breathe. She went to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, but doctors there struggled to diagnose what was wrong.
A scan and biopsy revealed a tumour on her liver – but doctors didn’t know what kind it was, or how to treat it.
No-one had ever seen this kind of tumour before. I’m the only person to have this kind of tumour in the UK Joanne Adam
Joanne, 47, was given painkillers to manage the pain and it wasn’t until April 2016 that a doctor in Edinburgh finally diagnosed the tumour as ganglioneuromatosis.
Joanne said: “No-one had ever seen this kind of tumour before, I’m the only person to have this kind of tumour in the UK.”
Rather than being a separate growth, Joanne’s tumour grew like a tree with vines spreading into other organs.
But with the relief of knowing what the tumour was, came the shock news that the only way to treat it, was to remove all the affected organs.
Joanne said: “I was in shock, disbelief. How can they transplant all those organs? I was panicking. What would happen if they didn’t get a transplant in time and it spreads to more places?
“I was told to pack my bags, I could get the call any time.”
Doctors from the Cambridge transplant team travelled to Glasgow to meet Joanne and talk to her about the operation. She then spent two weeks in Cambridge getting blood tests and speaking to psychologists about the mental impact of going through a transplant.
Joanne was a full-time carer for her parents Anne and Peter, who have both since passed away, before her diagnosis, and before that she worked as a carer for Capability Scotland.
She said: “My mum was offered the chance of a lung transplant but she had COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – so she wasn’t eligible. My dad needed a kidney transplant but again he was unfit for it. I do know how the process works.
“I know how well you have to respect your organs and I won’t abuse them, because I know from my mum and dad how precious they are.”
Her son Thomas, 17, remembers
Fighting fit Sitting up in hospital
Sign up Joanne is urging people to sign up to the organ donor register and tell their families of their wishes