Omagh man Aaron Smyth has his cousin to thank for giving him a second chance at life after the pair became the first adults from NI to take part in a ‘live’ liver transplant.
Aaron was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 14 and over the next 10 years his family watched a bright, outgoing young man reduced to a shell of himself.
Now 24, Aaron told how he suffered intense pain and discomfort followed by three major infections leading to the diagnosis of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis – an uncommon chronic liver disease which has no known cure or treatment.
Aaron said his lowest point came in 2015 when he was put on the liver transplant list, then told he could be waiting more than two years and warned there was a 20% chance he might not survive that wait.
It was at this point his cousin Robert – who proved to be a exact liver match – offered to be a ‘living’ donor.
With the procedure, just under half of a donor’s liver is removed and transplanted into the recipient. During the subsequent two months or so, the remaining parts of the liver grow back to full size, providing normal liver function to both donor and recipient.
The 14-hour operation took place in October 2016 at King’s College Hospital in London.
Aaron told the News Letter: “It’s been eight months since the transplant and I’m feeling better than I ever remember feeling. I’m playing five-a-side football, I walked up a mountain on Sunday past. I’m making up for lost time.
“Being a donor is such a powerful gift. The magnitude of what Robert did for me, I will never forget.”
The Queen’s student said he was indebted to the support of his family and girlfriend Eimear.
His family are trying to raise over £10,000 for the organisations that have helped Aaron – they are the RVH Liver Support Group in Belfast, the Todd Ward in King’s Hospital and Live Life, Give Life who help to raise awareness of organ donation.
To find out how to donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/aaron-smyth