Nathan Rogowski, from Pwllheli had a liver transplant in January 2017, after living with a chronic liver disease, Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) for ten years. Nathan decided to write a letter to thank his donor family for the gift of life.
The 36-year-old has suffered with long term digestive diseases all his life, having been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and fitted with a stoma at 16 years old. Nathan was then diagnosed with PSC in 2007 and was told that he would eventually need a transplant.
Nathan lived with the disease for almost a decade before his health began to deteriorate.
In January 2017, Nathan became seriously ill and was rushed to his local hospital for surgery on a burst vein. He was placed on the transplant waiting list in early December 2016 but due to his rare blood group – B negative, he had been informed that a match may take some time.
“I was sent to hospital in Bangor where I was taken to theatre to try and stop the bleeding from my stoma. I was then transferred to the intensive care unit a few days after the surgery in case I needed to go back to theatre.
“I didn’t feel that bad in myself and had a long debate with the doctors as I didn’t feel like I needed to be in intensive care! I didn’t realise how ill I was because I’d been ill for so long I just put it down to another hospital admission, but my family were well aware of how bad I was and were dealing with it as they always have. I was yellow with jaundice; and my sister called me a minion. I was deteriorating by the day.
“When it got really serious and they couldn’t stop the bleeding from my stoma, I was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to have a procedure to reduce the pressure from the portal vein. I was told by the intensive care sister in Bangor that there may be a liver available when I get to Birmingham but not to get my hopes up, as I was a reserve patient in case the liver wasn’t suitable for the primary patient.
“I didn’t think too much of the possibility of a transplant and just focused on having the procedure, but after arriving at Birmingham at around 8pm, the transplant coordinator came to see me and said “the liver wasn’t suitable for the primary patient so they were assessing whether it would be suitable for me”. At around 8:45pm she came back to my side room and said that the liver was suitable for me and I would be going down to theatre at 10pm.
“It all happened so quickly you didn’t really have time to think about it which sometimes is the best way, not that having it done worried me at all.
“It didn’t hit me that I’d had a transplant until about six days later. All I knew about the donor was that he was 43 and that he had a brain stem death.
“It’s been almost three years and this year’s Organ Donation Week got me thinking and I decided to write my thoughts down in a letter to the family. I can’t comprehend what they went through, losing their loved one, but I’m so grateful that they made the decision and consented to the transplant as they are the reason I’m here today.
“They gave me a second chance at life.”
In 2015, Wales adopted a soft-opt out system of consent, where if a person has not registered any organ donation decision, then their consent can be deemed. Deemed consent means that a person is assumed to have no objection to organ donation unless they have stated otherwise.
Moving to the new system has helped increase the consent rate in Wales to the highest in the UK and figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that nearly half of people in Wales have now registered their organ donation decision on the Organ Donor Register.
However, to make sure as many organ transplants as possible take place the Welsh Government is urging people to talk to their loved ones to tell them their organ donation decision and register that decision on the Organ Donor Register so there’s no uncertainty.
“I’m so optimistic for the future, I’ve had a few health setbacks and suffered a lot with fatigue but I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
“My dream is to work in the health sector by becoming a paramedic or call handler, I need to make sure I’m as healthy as can be – but things are on the up.”
If you want to donate your organs, it’s important to make a decision, register it by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting https://beta.gov.wales/organ-donation-campaign and have the organ donation chat with your loved ones. To see how much difference a transplant organ can make, read Nathan’s letter below:
Dear Donor Family,
It’s been over three years since I received the gift of life from your loved one and there are no words to express the gratitude I feel. There are no words adequate to give you some comfort and does not cause more pain at this difficult time for your family. My health has not been good since I was 13 years old. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and needed surgery to remove my colon and have an ileostomy placed, which I’ve had now for 20 years. During my school years it was hard and my schooling suffered due to my health issues.
When I was listed, I never thought I’d get the call as soon as I did due to my rare blood group, but 6 weeks in the call was made. At the time I was in intensive care in my local hospital and thankfully really didn’t realise how bad I was, because I had been ill for so long I thought it was just another blip for me but my family were well aware of how bad things were. I needed a procedure called TIPS to stop a stoma bleed, which wouldn’t stop. I was waiting to be transferred to the transplant hospital from the high dependency unit in order for this to be done. I never expected to receive the gift of life that day, although the HDU nurse told me that there might be a suitable organ for transplantation.
I haven’t been well for most of my life and now my life has changed for the better thanks to your family member being an organ donor. The loss of a loved one is never easy but I promise that the gift I received will be appreciated and given the best of care for the future. I was able to go on holiday for the first time in years and it was just what I needed, it brought the light back to me knowing that now anything is possible and that’s only because of your loved one, I now have a life, and I am truly thankful for that.
My health before the transplant wasn’t great therefore, I had to give up working, now I want to have a career in the NHS. I started college last September to study the Access to HE –Health but had to leave due to bugs I picked up during the winter but I am able to go back once I’m strong enough. Once I have completed this course I want to progress to university to study either Paramedic Science or Nursing. I want to be able to help others as I had been helped throughout my illness. With the gift I received from your loved one I can now peruse the dream of being able to work in healthcare.
The last three years have gone by so quickly and a lot has happened, in May this year I needed surgery to re-plumb the bile duct due to narrowing. It’s hard to comprehend it at times but no matter what is thrown my way I will deal with it head on. The outlook for the future is bright and I intend to fulfill my passions and dreams. I will be forever grateful for the second chance of life that I received from a member of your family. I was falling quickly, your loved one caught me and saved my life, not a day goes by when I’m not thankful for what I have been given.
I hope this letter brings you comfort in knowing that the gift of life your loved one gave to me, has helped me peruse a path to my chosen career and to have many more memorable moments in my life ahead.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.