Fifty-year-old Michelle Jones from Aberdare has recently returned to work after undergoing a liver transplant.
Michelle has worked in the NHS since 1986, starting her career as a clerical officer then training as a nurse. Michelle qualified as a registered nurse in 1990 and started work in Prince Charles Hospital, first as a scrub nurse, then as a recovery nurse. Michelle is currently a recovery sister at Prince Charles Hospital.
Michelle says: “I came back to work in February of this year, eight months after my liver transplant. It has been an unbelievable journey on which I am still travelling. I will never be able to praise the care I have had through the NHS enough. Without the dedication of staff and innovation of new techniques and forward thinking of brilliant surgeons I wouldn’t be here today.
“I first became ill in the summer of 1995, I thought I had a reaction to a Hep B vaccination that I had received because my eyes went yellow. I visited my GP who sent me straight over to Prince Charles Hospital where I had bloods taken.
“A liver biopsy showed some inflammatory markers, nothing really to worry about at that time. Still having problems three years later I had a second biopsy, it was shortly after having my second baby. The biopsy showed that I had an autoimmune condition called Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC). This is where the immune system attacks the bile ducts in the liver causing scarring and eventually cirrhosis.
“I was told I would probably need a liver transplant within ten years. It was awful, I felt like my life was on hold. I had a new baby and a toddler, we couldn’t get life insurance or any cover for a mortgage so we were unable to plan for the future or make any financial commitments, just in case anything happened to me.
“I was referred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in 2002 where they specialise in my condition. They have been amazing, seeing me regularly for tests.
“In 2015 things started really deteriorating, we lost our first grandson William at 19 days old, we were all devastated. I also had to start having a procedure called oesophageal varices banding to prevent the potential of bleeds. My life was in turmoil, I didn’t really have time to worry about myself because I was so concerned about my daughter.
“At the end of February 2017 I felt as if I had hit a brick wall, the lethargy had become unbearable. I spoke to the Professor in Queen Elizabeth Hospital about how I felt and he put me forward for transplant assessment.
“Our first visit was in April 2017. I had lots of different tests and if they thought I needed a transplant the second stage of assessment would be in around six weeks.
“My second appointment was a two day assessment 10 and 11th May, our wedding anniversary– what a way to spend it!
“After two days of tests I received a phone call to say I would go on the transplant list and could receive a call anytime. I was on the list for nineteen days and had a phone call at 19.20 hrs on Friday 2nd June to say they had a liver for me, to leave by 20:00 hrs and be in Birmingham by 22:30 hrs.
“To say I was in a bit of a state was an understatement, we arrived just after 22:30 hrs and after some bloods, ECG and chest x-ray, I went to theatre. I don’t think I have ever been so frightened, literally putting your life in a strangers hands.
“Professor Poalo Muesian, my surgeon came in the anaesthetic room to introduce himself and held my hand as I went to sleep. I went to ITU following surgery and then the liver ward. I was in hospital a total of sixteen days, the nursing staff and multidisciplinary team were absolutely amazing, not that I remember much of the first week.
“I also can’t forget my Donor who made the whole procedure possible and the bravery of the family to allow the donation to go ahead. I am now a member of the organ donation committee within the health board and try to promote organ donation where possible.
“My husband Nyrion and my family were my rock and without their support I could never have got through it all. I so lucky to have such supportive friends and colleagues and their support and kindness throughout this time have been amazing.
“I believe that if you or a member of your family needed a transplant, would you be willing to accept it? If the answer is ‘yes’ then surely you should be willing to put yourself on the donor register or at least discuss it with your loved ones, it’s so much better to discuss it now then at a very distressing time.”