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Downham Market grandmother urges public to join organ donor register after her liver transplant

PUBLISHED: 10:43 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:43 15 September 2017

A grandmother from Downham Market is pleading to the public to join the NHS organ donor register after she was given “the gift of life”.

In December last year, Joan Rye, 68, thought her time was running out after she had waited a painful 14 months for a liver transplant.

She had a serious liver condition which could have been brought on by Crohn’s Disease in 2012.

Her daughter, Sarah Rye, 44, wrote a heartfelt letter to the public in which she appealed for people to join the organ donor register.

She and her family are raising awareness on the importance of becoming a donor after having joined the register herself six months before her mum was diagnosed.

Joan said her health was deteriorating rapidly, as the toxins in her liver were affecting her brain leaving her unable to see properly.

The family were taking extra precaution due to the severity of Joan’s condition which meant Sarah couldn’t spend Christmas with her mum and dad Roger after falling ill herself.

She added: “If you get a cold you can’t get a transplant, I would never forgive myself.

“I couldn’t spend what we thought was our last Christmas together.”

But just after Christmas, the family received the phone call they had been waiting for – an organ was available.

Joan Rye only had half an hour to leave her home in Denver, near Downham Market, to get to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

After a false alarm earlier in the year, Joan Rye was initially worried she would be heading back home without the life-saving transplant.

But after an agonising 12-hour wait at the hospital, she was told the surgery will go ahead.

She said: “I was excited and kept thinking this is going to save my life.

“You can’t believe how you feel, a couple of months more and that would have been it.

“I started to think about the marvellous donor and what they have done.”

After 12 hours on the operating table, Mrs Rye was making good progress and was discharged from hospital after only three weeks.

Since then, Mrs Rye has been spending quality time with her granddaughter Ellie-Jo, something she said she was unable to do before.

“I feel 10 years younger, better than I have felt in the last 20 years,” she added.

“I am so grateful to that person who has given me the gift of life to spend with my granddaughter.

“I’ve taught Ellie-Jo how to sew and bake, before I was so slow but now we have that time together again.

“If the donor had not it then it might have been too late, I would not see my grandaughter grow up, I can’t bear thinking about it.”

Joan and Sarah Rye are urging the public to join the organ donor register and to discuss it with family and friends.

They believe England should adopt the opt-out system already introduced in Wales and soon to be enforced in Scotland, where patients are assumed to have agreed consent.

Joan Rye said: “It is the best and last thing you can do at the end of your life – to give life.

“You are not just saving that person but the whole family.

“If you are willing to accept an organ then why wouldn’t you be willing to save someone else?”

Nearly 2,000 people are being kept alive across East Anglia thanks to organ transplants.

In Norfolk that figure has reached 672, some 669 people have been saved in Cambridgeshire and 544 people have been helped in Suffolk.

But new figures have shown more than 150 people have died while on the waiting list in Norfolk in the past ten years.

Across Britain, 50,000 people are being kept alive because of transplants and the number of people on the Organ Donor Register has reached a record 23.6 million.

More information about the organ donor register can be found via www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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