Bob: Transplant saved my life

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A retired firefighter who received a liver transplant a year ago has shared his story with public health minister Michael Matheson.

Bob James (61), from Lennoxtown, met the politician at Glasgow’s Transport Museum, where he volunteers, as part of a campaign to get more people to tell their family they want to donate their organs.

Bob had his transplant in November 2013 after doctors told him his liver was failing due to a condition called haemochromatosis, which went undiagnosed as his liver function was masked by another existing condition, Gilbert’s Syndrome.

He was put on medication and continued with life, but over the next 10 months his health slowly deteriorated.

Bob said: “I felt pretty bad. I was getting slower and slower, the smallest things felt like a real effort. I’d lost enthusiasm for everything and my quality of life was rapidly going downhill. I just thought I was getting old, I’d no idea how serious it was.”

Bob was referred to the Transplant Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, where he was told that he needed to be put on the waiting list for a liver transplant. Whilst getting his head around the news, Bob received the call that a suitable donor liver had been found, just 48 hours after being listed for transplant.

He said: “I had no idea it was going to happen so quickly. The day before I’d been working at the museum. Nine hours after I got the call I was at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh prepped and ready for a transplant. Within two days I came round in the high dependency ward with almost no pain and feeling overall, pretty well. Looking back, it really was quite remarkable.

“I do know I’ve been remarkably lucky and will always be eternally grateful to the person who saved my life by making the decision to donate their organs. People talk about firefighters being brave, but in my eyes that person was braver than any firefighter. Without them making that decision, I might not be here today.”

He added: “I’d urge anyone who wants to be an organ donor to share their wishes with family members. It’s so important. For me it’s meant getting my life back, and I intend to live it to the full.”

Mr Matheson said: “Bob’s story shows how transplantation can transform lives. That is why we’re encouraging people who have made the decision to be an organ donor to share their wishes with loved ones.

“It’s encouraging to note that the number of people waiting for a transplant has fallen to the lowest level we have seen in years, however, with around 550 people in Scotland still waiting for a life-saving transplant, it’s important people are aware of why talking about organ donation and joining the register could save lives.”

For more information about organ donation, and to join the register, just go to www.organdonationscotland.org