Love knows no bounds: How liver donations saved relatives’ lives

Mr Anthony Maina, 28, has gained ten kilogrammes and his skin looks suppler and his eyes that had a scary yellowness about them now look normal.

She allowed doctors to remove 65 per cent of her liver so her son could live.

It is now a year since the liver transplant was done and anyone will marvel at the transformation.

All the transformation is thanks to his 50-year-old mother Eunice Wangari.

As from 6 o’clock on the quiet Monday morning of June 13, 2016 at a hospital in India, surgeons cut up her thorax to hive off a portion of her liver that would give her ailing son a new lease of life.

RIGHT LOBE

The liver has the left and right lobe, with the right taking up around 60 per cent of the total size.

It is the bigger portion of her liver that Mr Maina needed to survive.

Since 2011, he had been battling primary sclerosing cholangitis, a condition where a person’s immune system malfunctions and the liver, among other internal organs, are rendered dysfunctional.

By 7am that Monday, after the medics had worked their scalpels to reach her liver to ascertain that it was good for a transplant, another team of surgeons also started opening up Mr Maina’s thorax.

TAKING NO MEDICINE

They were done with Ms Wangari after about 14 hours.

Fast forward to today. Mr Maina has since returned to work at a technology firm in Nairobi while his mother is also going strong as a teacher at Karisheni Primary School in Chaka in Nyeri County.

“After my son’s liver transplant in which I donated 65 per cent of my liver to him, I’m fine and taking no medicine.

In fact I did not take any after discharge from hospital,” Ms Wangari told the Nation.

SUITABLE DONOR

Ms Wangari was placed third in the donor’s line. Doctors had chosen Mr Maina’s brother Albertine as the most suitable donor, followed by his father Anderson Ng’ang’a then his mother. All were willing to donate.

However, after various tests on the members of the family that lives in Nyeri County, doctors selected Ms Wangari.

She took up the responsibility with pride and she is amazed that rather than weigh her down, the donation has reinvigorated her.

“I was weighing 52 kilogrammes before the surgery but now I’m 68kg.

I carry all my duties without any problems and I don’t have any discomforts.

I’m a teacher and I feel more energetic while doing my work,” she said, noting that the peace of mind from seeing her son back on his feet is more the reason she is healthier.

TRANSFORMATION

The transformation has also been phenomenal.

“Before I had the transplant, I couldn’t sleep at night because of itching. But nowadays, by around 10.30pm or 11pm, I’m already sleepy and I wake up at normal hours,” he said.

He added: “The first question most people ask me is: ‘You mean you can be this brown?’ Because I was dark before.

And I don’t think in my life I’ve ever gone past 57kgs; but right now I’m 10 kilogrammes heavier.

I just look healthy and everyone tells me I look good. Some people say I look like the person they used to know.”

CHALLENGES

However, getting an organ donation comes with its challenges, which include taking pills for the rest of your life.

Every day, Mr Maina has to take seven tablets in the morning and seven others in the evening.

The main purpose of the medicine is to suppress his immunity so that his body does not fight the liver.

He currently has a year’s stock of the pills, which he bought from India at a cost of Sh200,000.

“They are big; really big,” he said of the pills.

ADDITIONAL COST

That is an additional cost to the about Sh6 million that he spent for the surgery, most of which was raised through social media campaign.

Because of the suppressed immunity, he also has to avoid unnecessary travel and places that might expose him to disease.

“Doctors said they don’t know how my body would react if I fall sick,” he said.

“I only drink mineral water that has been chemically treated. If I have to take water that hasn’t been treated, they told me I need to boil it like twice.”

SMILE AGAIN

Accompanying Mr Maina to the interview was 25-year-old Ruth Muthoni, who in August 2016 had 67 per cent of her liver extracted to give her 30-year-old brother a reason to smile again.

Ms Muthoni met Mr Maina in India when she had travelled for the operation to save her brother Peter King’ori, who had the same condition as Mr Maina’s

“I feel very happy because I saved his life. I feel like it is something I can do over and over again because I see him being healthy,” she said.

She says she had to cope with intense pain for the first few days after surgery but after recovery, all is normal.

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