My Health Experience: ‘In a very happy place now and very grateful’

When the phone rang early one morning, it could mean only one thing – a donor’s liver had become available

Tue, Mar 25, 2014, 10:57

I was told that I had a liver cancer the day after my wife, Elizabeth, found out that she was pregnant with our first child. Talk about a rollercoaster. My hospital appointment was early on a Monday morning. We went to Dublin on the Sunday and Elizabeth did the pregnancy test that evening. We were overjoyed when it was positive.

As far as I was concerned the appointment at St Vincent’s was just “to be sure, to be sure”. I had changed doctors and after some routine tests there was a question mark about something on my liver. I had been leading a pretty active life. I was working away in the bank, I used to go to the gym and I felt fine – although in hindsight maybe there were a few things not quite right.

We weren’t that worried but some things do stick with you. I remember being in the waiting room and there was one couple ahead of us. When they came out, it was obvious that they had got bad news.

I suddenly thought “this is real” and the penny started to drop. We went in to meet Prof Aiden McCormick and he had to break the news that it was cancer. We came out, nothing was said, and then we sat down in the waiting room and both of us broke down.

Knocked to the floor
We had just found out that we were going to have a baby and then we were knocked to the floor by this. Now I realise that a liver transplant was my only option although maybe at the time I did not take that in. It was a very difficult time for both of us.

I was up and down to Dublin for tests and then I was put on the waiting list for a transplant. We were really anxious but physically I felt good and I was working away.

Once I was on the list, it was a case of just waiting. I had the phone with me at all times.

I tried to get on with life. It was really stressful for Elizabeth, being pregnant and coping with this huge worry. But she was my rock through the whole thing.

We told our family and some close friends and obviously my employers at Bank of Ireland, but we kept it fairly tight because we didn’t want to be dealing with loads of questions at a time like that.

I had been told that the average waiting time was six to nine months – they have to give the worst-case scenario – but I got the call after two months.

I suppose reading between the lines I knew then that my situation was very grave.

I got the call at 7am on a Sunday. It was October 2012 and Elizabeth was five months pregnant. I knew immediately the phone rang. Nobody else rings you at that time on a Sunday. We had been told to have our bags packed.