Transplant recipient grateful for life-changing gift
Landscape architect Peter Phillips is relishing his second chance.
“It’s like winning Lotto. I have a new lease on life,” Peter, 62, said from his home at Nowra on the New South Wales south coast.
Peter is one of more than 2000 patients who’ve received a life-saving liver transplant at the pioneering Australian National Liver Transplantation Unit.
Based at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, the Unit is a combined facility of Sydney Local Health District, the University of Sydney and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
Peter’s sharing his story, as the District marks Donate Life Week, a national campaign to encourage more Australians to register to become organ and tissue donors.
Data from the Organ and Tissue Authority shows that in 2019, the lives of 1,683 Australians were saved by organ transplants made possible through the generosity of 787 organ donors.
About 1600 Australians are waitlisted for a transplant.
It was more than 20 years ago that doctors first told Peter he would eventually need a liver transplant.
A visit to his GP for a routine check-up when he turned 40 led to Peter being diagnosed with a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
“At the time, I was very fit and had no obvious health problems. It was a shock to learn that there was no treatment for this unusual autoimmune disease and, that at some point in my life, I would need a liver transplant,” Peter said.
PSC damages the liver’s bile ducts and affects how the organ functions.
While the symptoms can be managed with daily medication, there is no known cure for the disease. It can lead to liver failure and the need for a transplant.
Over the next two decades, Peter ran his landscaping business with his wife Jane and two young sons by his side. He played rugby union and became a champion dragon boat racer.
Doctors monitored the disease which showed signs of slow progression, until May 2018 when Peter’s condition deteriorated.
“I started to lose weight rapidly and began to get signs of the disease progressing. These included fatigue, jaundice and discoloured urine. My specialist informed me that the only solution this time was to have a transplant,” he said.
Four months later, Peter was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant and admitted to RPA for a series of tests ahead of surgery.
“It was a very frightening time for me and my family. But, after an initial meeting with my hepatologist and admission to the Unit, we felt assured and positive about my future. All of the staff were so supportive and caring,” he said.
He soon received positive news.
“I was called 13 days after being placed on the waiting list and told there was a liver match for me. I received my new liver on 11th October 2018. My recovery was extremely fast. I was discharged from hospital 10 days after my transplant,” he said.
It’s now nearly two years on and Peter is enjoying life and has become an advocate for organ donation.
“I’m grateful for the new life I have and the remarkable treatment I received from the transplant team at RPA. I look forward to a long and happy life with my wife, two adult children, their partners and five grandchildren.
“Organ donation is a wonderful gift. It’s life-changing. I’d like to encourage others to register to become an organ donor. It’s made a real difference to my life and would for others too,” he said.
To register to become an organ and tissue donor, please visit Donate Life