Three nurses who all had life-saving liver transplants now work together on same ward
Covid masks on, three nurses stand proudly on Ward 726 – drawn together in a remarkable tale of survival.
All were in desperate need of new livers when they fell critically ill, given just weeks to live.
And all three had life-saving transplants on the ward where they now work side by side.
One, Amy Davis, was even the recovery nurse who helped the other two pull through their own ordeals.
Now Amy, 27, Olivia Price, 29, and Sherniece Kaur, 25, have been reunited on the transplant ward at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Friends for life, they are also founding members of the newly-formed Birmingham Liver Youth Society (BLYS), a group for young people to ask informal questions, socialise and talk about their shared experiences.
Amy – first to have her transplant – is a ward sister at the QE and is also a trainee liver transplant co-ordinator.
It was six years ago – while doing her nursing degree – that Amy realised she wasn’t well.
She explains: “In July 2014, when I was just about to finish my second year studying nursing at Worcester University, I realised something wasn’t right.
“I had IBS symptoms and extreme fatigue, which I put down to the strains of my studies.
“I went to my GP for a blood test and got a call the next day saying I had to come in immediately.
“In August I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC), where antibodies attack your liver, causing permanent scarring.
“I was told there was no cure, but it could be managed with steroids, antibiotics and vitamins, but I was turning more yellow by the day. By that Christmas I was told the medication wasn’t working and I was put on the priority transplant list for a new liver.”
Amy received a split liver from a 32-year-old female, with the other part going to a little boy.
“Waking up from that operation, I can remember being inspired by the compassion and care of the nurses,” she says.
“I’d always known I wanted to be a nurse, but now I knew specifically what field I wanted to work in. After two days in critical care and another eight days on the liver ward, I was discharged.
“Six months later I resumed my studies with more drive and enthusiasm than I could have ever imagined. When I completed my studies, my dream job had become available on Ward 726 at the QE.
“I wanted to give something back to the NHS for saving my life but not only that, I wanted to do it for my donor and their family. And that’s where I am now, back where my life was saved, on Ward 726, as a sister.
“Every day I absolutely love my job and feel like I’m living a dream to be able to give something back and support others who are going through the same experiences as me.”
Part of that dream would eventually bring her into contact with Olivia and Sherniece – who had transplants around the same time in 2018.
Olivia, who works as a nurse in critical care with patients post-transplant, tells of the frightening moment as her health plummeted when she turned the age of 18.
She says: “I suffered a huge oesophageal bleed linked to my high blood pressure, an enlarged spleen and more.
“With an eye doctor for a father and constantly in and out of hospital, I knew early on I wanted to be a nurse, to give something back, but didn’t quite know what type of nursing I wanted to do.
“That was if I ever survived, of course. But having that target gave me something to live for.
“I finished my training at Birmingham City University in 2013, then moved to Torquay to work in an A&E department.
“In March 2016 my liver failed but because I’d lost so much weight, because of all the stress combined with my liver’s health, I couldn’t have a transplant.
“After some months in a specialist re-feeding clinic I got up to 51kg (8st) and in March 2018 got a call saying a viable liver had been found.
“After endless years on the brink of death, I woke up on the transplant ward to see Amy, my guardian angel nurse, who told me she’d also had a liver transplant and would do everything she could to speed my recovery.
“It was so reassuring to know that she had been through exactly what I was going through.
“As soon as I was better, I applied to work in Critical Care to help people who’d had transplants too.
“Amy and I see each other regularly – and I can’t believe I’ve got this chance to do what she did for me when I most needed her.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to do what I do now, with my own experiences to share with other people who have had a transplant.” Sherniece, the third piece in this astonishing medical jigsaw, is also back on Ward 726 – and, thankfully, not as a patient this time.
She says: “I’d only been a student nurse for two months when my ankles swelled terribly and my stomach felt strangely bloated.
“In March 2018 I finally had the liver diagnosis confirmed – I had a blood clot in my hepatic portal vein caused by colitis.
“My liver wasn’t working and no toxins were leaving my body.
“I went bright yellow, I was throwing up constantly and couldn’t walk.
“I was put on the super-urgent transplant list. Following the transplant my recovery was slow, but steady. Amy, my wonder nurse, was there by my side every time I needed her, reassuring me I’d be okay, that she’d been there and not to give up.
“Now I’m on my final placement for my second year of studies and can’t believe the chances of me being back on the same ward I spent 10 months on. When my doctor saw me he dropped to his knees!
“This is my calling – and I’ve asked to do my final placement back here next year.
“I want to be like Amy was to me, to sit and talk to the younger transplant patients,
“And to give them hope when they feel like it’s all over.”
Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, said: “It’s wonderful to see these three successful liver transplant recipients giving back to others in need.
“The UK is currently facing an epidemic in liver disease with the numbers affected having increased by more than 400% in the last forty years. Sadly, there are not enough donors and every year hundreds of people with advanced liver disease die whilst waiting for a transplant.
“It’s important that everyone makes their wishes known to their loved ones as no life-saving transplant would be possible without the generosity of donors and their families – it really is the most precious gift of life.”