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Donor’s lungs gave me my old life back

By David Cosgrove | Birmingham | Health | Published:

This is the precious moment Michael Willis thought he would never live to see.

Michael Willis, his wife and members of the hospital respiratory team

Cradling little baby O’Shea just minutes after he was born, the jewellery maker cherished the first time he met his grandson.

Michael, who suffers from the rare lung condition sarcoidosis, had been told last year by doctors at City Hospital in Birmingham, he had six months to live – unless he underwent a double lung transplant.

Consultant respiratory physician Dr Arvind Rajasekaran was determined to save his patient, and so contacted the Royal Papworth Hospital, in Cambridge, in the hope they would assist in finding a donor, and carrying out the operation.

Michael when he was seriously ill

Within two months a suitable donor was found and Michael underwent the operation in June last year.

Michael, aged 60, said: “I feel extremely grateful to the person who donated their lungs to me.

"It was a miracle for me and my family.

“I feel that I have been given a second chance and I need to make the most of it.

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"Without the transplant, I would not have been able to see my great grandson, who was born in January.

"It was an amazing moment meeting baby O’Shea, and one I thought would never happen.

“I’m cherishing every moment that I am able to spend with my family.”

Michael Willis and baby O’Shea M

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Michael added: “Before I had this condition, I was very healthy and I worked full time. Then all of a sudden I started showing symptoms of sarcoidosis.

"I struggled to move from one room to another, and I wasn’t able to breathe very well.

"I felt exhausted taking just small steps. I even needed to use an electronic wheelchair to go to the toilet.

“I feel enormously grateful to the support that I have received from my family, our friends, and our church community who have always been there for me.

“I am a very fortunate person, as I know it’s not always easy to find a match, especially for people from the African Caribbean community like myself.

"I hope that my story will inspire more people to consider organ donation because it saves lives.”

After his diagnosis, Michael had to use a non-invasive ventilator machine to keep him breathing as he slept.

The medical team at City Hospital tried every treatment they could to help Michael, but the last straw came when the dad collapsed at home in his bathroom. He had developed pneumonia.

Dr Rajasekaran said: “We knew that Michael’s lungs couldn’t cope with the condition anymore as he did not improve even after treating his infection, and that he desperately needed a double lung transplant.

“Fortunately we were able to find a match for Michael and he had the operation in June,” said the doctor, who has been inspired to join the donor register since treating Michael.

“It was a great collaboration between the two hospitals, and we hope to continue working with them more in the future.

“Without the transplant Michael could have died within six months. We were so pleased that his operation was a success and he is recovering remarkably well.

“He can now walk into my clinic and it really makes it all worthwhile to see how the operation has transformed his health.

"Since then he has been receiving specialist treatment at home from our community respiratory service.”

Dr Rajasekaran added: “An organ from someone of the same ethnic group is more likely to be a better match.

"Sadly, fewer people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) agree to organ donation which means that people from these communities often wait longer for a transplant and are more likely to die before a suitable organ can be found.

"I really hope that Michael’s story can inspire more people from the BAME to consider organ donation.”

David Cosgrove

By David Cosgrove
Chief Reporter - @davidcosgrove_

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