Donating an organ is the ultimate gift you can give to another person.
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Whether it’s a living donation or a post mortem one, the effect is the same: A person who was doomed to die before their time is given a second chance at leading a long, healthy life. Gareth Weeks of Fife, Scotland recently shared two photos that demonstrate just how dramatically organ donation can change lives.
“Organ donation really does save lives!” he wrote on Twitter along with side-by-side photographs of himself and his 6-year-old daughter, Zara.
The photo on the left was taken on May 11th, 2022 before he received his life-changing donation. His skin is noticeably yellow from jaundice, and his abdomen appears bloated. The photo on the right was taken just six weeks after he received a liver transplant, and the change is obvious. Gareth is beaming and happy, his skin restored to a normal tone, and the light has returned to his eyes.
“Please talk about it and let your loved ones know your wishes,” he continued.
Gareth’s trouble with his liver began six years ago when he was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), an incurable chronic liver disease. Back then he always felt exhausted, even when he got enough sleep, but he chalked it up to having an infant at home. He suffered from stomach pains and cramping, lower back pain, and jaundice. After extensive testing, he was finally given the diagnosis that changed his world.
“I had no idea what it was,” he said.
PSC happens when bile ducts in the liver become blocked, so bile builds up in the liver and causes damage. If left alone, the bile build-up can lead to cancer. Gareth went home and Googled the disease. When he learned that people with PSC have only a 10 to 12 year life expectancy, he knew he had to get on the organ transplant list right away.
“Over the next few months I was trying to come to terms with having a chronic illness but it was strange because physically, other than being tired, I felt fine,” he said.
Gareth got very sick in 2021, and his physicians put him on the transplant list in September. For the next seven, long months he waited for the phone call that would give him his health back. On May 16th, the call finally came – a liver was available, and he was a match!
“Once the surgeon gave the go-ahead, the next thing I remember was waking up in ICU at 8:30 a.m. the next day with a breathing tube in my throat,” Gareth said.
He was released from the hospital just two weeks after his transplant. His liver function is finally in the normal range for the first time in six years, and he’s incredibly grateful for the donor who gave him the ultimate gift.
“But because of the generosity of my donor and their family, I am excited about my future again,” he said. “I want to go back home on holiday to South Africa, finally use the bicycle I bought a few years ago and start golf again.”
Gareth hopes his photos will inspire others to become organ donors. He calls his donor “a true hero,” and he’s determined to live life to the fullest now that he’s got a fresh start!
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