I’m writing this from hospital, with two plastered-over arm crooks post blood tests. And refreshingly this has sod all to do with my lovely, healthy, normally-functioning liver! I’m in hospital and I have to keep pinching myself to believe why.
One year post transplant, Paul and I were given the a-ok to try for a baby. This wasn’t a decision we made lightly. A year post transplant was when I just started to feel physically normal again and I was enjoying that feeling no end. Having control of my body, not being terrified at every abdominal pain, knowing I could push myself running again, it felt wonderful in a way I’d never ever appreciated before. But I was more than happy to give all that up for this. What I found much harder was processing all the risks and the guilt.
The Risks of Pregnancy post transplant
I would be a high risk pregnancy, with risk to both the baby and to my liver. And I couldn’t decide if this would be a wonderful tribute to my donor and the strength and life she gave me, or if it would be an exceptionally selfish thing to do, risking her gift and forcing the NHS to spend more time and money mending me again. What if my liver failed and I needed somebody else to die for me? What if I was back to having just 48 hours to live but this time a liver couldn't be found? Or if the pregnancy didn’t destroy my liver but just damaged it enough so I had to live the weak half-life I’m so scared of, while waiting for my place on the non-urgent transplant list and being a tired, yellow mum with no concentration span or the strength to lift my little baby up. What if the baby was horribly premature or so immune suppressed from my drugs it caught something terrible and was left fighting in hospital?
What would my donor want me to do? Because the awful outcomes sounded awful, and I would read an awful lot of awful outcomes online. But then I’d read the positive outcomes, and I would imagine our baby and how much we would love it, and I would imagine writing to my donor’s family to tell them about the new life my donor had made possible. And that our baby would grow up knowing all about this wonderful woman that saved its mummy and how extraordinarily kind strangers could be. And it made sense to us, and (after many conversations with doctors) the risks seemed worth taking.
When I was told not long ago that liver transplants last around 15 years - after the initial gut wrenching shock, panic, and sorrow - Paul and I decided that we wouldn’t live like that, waiting for rejection or blood tests that confirmed the worst, that I would be the exception. That I would live a long, healthy, normal life and only die when I was well old and good and ready! Livergate no more defines me than it does my running and we’re not letting it define this either.
So...we took the risk - I am now 20 weeks pregnant!
A Runner in the Making
I’m more over the moon than you can imagine to report that so far everything is just peachy and so very very normal. Early on I had the odd mental meltdown at not recognising the way my body was feeling again. It took me back to that dark place of confusion and uncertainty pre-transplant. When that familiar feeling was coupled with the smell of hospital hand soap, I would feel dizzy with the stress. But this time there was one massive difference in that I was able to get answers to why I felt whatever I felt - from Google, from mumsnet, from a midwife - and this time I had a little pal to go through it with too. Not to mention this time I signed up for it wholeheartedly. Yesterday we had the 20 week scan and we even got to see the tiny little perfect liver, and these perfect little feet...
They look like running feet to me!
And now that said little pal is getting bigger things seem much clearer, it makes more sense to me now why my donor saved me. I always found it very difficult to understand why so many strangers, from the NHS and of course my donor and her family, would come together to save MY little frivolous life. Now it sits a lot better with me, I would already go to the ends of the Earth to save this little one’s life.
Transplant Games 2018
The transplant taught me nothing if not how unpredictable and changeable life is. This evening Paul and I are heading to Birmingham for the British Transplant Games. Last year the Games were my sole focus from the moment I could walk again after the op. They represented everything I needed to get back to physically, I was single minded, dedicated, and full to the brim with nerves. This year however I’m taking them easy, running but not racing, just enjoying the atmosphere and being surrounded by lots of other tranny-p recipients. This time last year I wouldn’t have believed I could take them so casually, but this year everything has changed - I am a normal, pregnant person before I am a transplant recipient, and I am so so bloody happy about it!
It's All Because of Her
Right now I have two livers inside me that I didn't start out life with. I have never been able to get close to finding the words to express my gratitude for my donor and her family. When I think about her my throat closes up with emotion - how can you ever describe how it feels to have your life saved, when death seemed so certain you can feel it consuming you. And now look how much I have because of her, as if my own life wasn't enough. It hurts me that I can never tell her how thankful I am, never show her that photo of the little feet that are here because of her. I wish I at least knew her name, that would come in handy this December!
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