IT was one of the most important years of Ena Mitchell’s life.
In 2013, within months of undergoing life-saving surgery, she became a grandmother for the first time to little Charlie, now three.
“It was certainly an emotional rollercoaster, and I feel incredibly lucky to be here,” the 51-year-old said. “And to be able to spend time with my grandson.
“Without the transplant, I might not have been here to meet him.”
Ena, from Yarrow Valley in the Borders, discovered she needed a liver transplant six years after being diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC).
The condition is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the bile ducts in the liver.
Ena’s late father Bill had the same disease but, as it’s not hereditary, she never thought she would get it too.
Symptoms included extreme tiredness and weight loss and Ena’s skin became jaundiced.
The mum-of-three spent 50 long days on the transplant list, waiting for a suitable donor to be found.
“Every time the phone went, I thought, ‘This might be it!’
“I was very ill by that point, incredibly tired and sleeping for about 20 hours a day.
“The transplant completely changed my life.”
Four months after surgery, Ena climbed Ben Nevis to raise funds for the PBC Foundation.
“I feel healthier – and have so much more energy,” said Ena. “And it couldn’t have come at a better time now that I’m a granny!”
She added: “It’s just amazing how an organ donation can turn people’s lives around, and I speak from experience.
“But I’m only half of the story. Without the organ donors or their families, there would be no transplants – and recipients like me are truly grateful.”
Ena knows very little about her donor – a Scottish woman slightly younger than herself. “Not a day goes by without me thinking of the poor family who lost a loved one,” said Ena. “If she wasn’t registered as a donor, I might not be here today so she has saved a life.
“I wrote a thank you letter to her family.
“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written.
“It was important for me to let them know how life-changing receiving the liver has been but it must have been hard to read because, at the end of the day, I only got the liver because she didn’t make it.”
Realising there was little support for people going through the same thing, Ena and three friends have set up their own charity – Liver Transplant Support UK.
The group hopes to support transplant recipients, as well as their families and carers, while raising awareness of the benefits of organ donation.
“Who better to highlight organ donation than someone who received one?” said Ena.
You can contact the group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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