By Lauren Crooks
A MAN has hailed his wife ‘the bravest woman in Scotland’ after she saved his life by donating half her liver to him.
Dan Foster, 28, was told he had a year to live and urgently needed a transplant after being diagnosed with a deadly liver disease.
So when his condition deteriorated as he waited, his wife Jen decided to step in and help.
Now the Ardrossan couple are recovering after the successful transplant – the first living adult-to-adult liver transplant in Scotland.
Until now, patients waiting for a liver donation have relied on organs coming available after a donor dies.
But a team of surgeons worked together in the first operation of its kind in the country and the operation has been hailed a major breakthrough in curing liver diseases.
Yesterday, recently married Jen played down her part in saving her husband’s life and insisted she was no hero – in fact she was being selfish!
She said: “I did this for selfish reasons in a way because it brought me my husband back.”
But delighted hubbie Dan proved his devotion to Jen by claiming he would have done the same if the roles were reversed.
He said: “If the shoe had been on the other foot I would have done it in a heartbeat.”
Dan, who suffers from Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis – a disease in the bile ducts of the liver – had been waiting for a liver transplant since last September.
When nobody came forward to help and her husband became gradually sicker, Jen said there was no question in her mind what she had to do.
She said: “Nobody approached me about this, I approached the hospital and asked them after reading about the procedure on the internet.
“At every point they kept asking me if I was sure and told me I could pull out right up until the day of the operation, but I didn’t think twice about doing it.”
Doctors said the chances of Jen’s liver being a match for her husband were slim, but after countless tests, she was declared suitable.
And although there were high risks for Jen as the donor, it was sick husband Dan who did most of the worrying for her.
Smiling, Dan said: “To me, Jen is the bravest woman in Scotland. Letting her do this was the hardest thing I have had to do. If I didn’t get the transplant I wouldn’t be here. Not a day goes by when I don’t look at her and remember what she did for me.”
And he insisted that the worries were helped by the sheer confidence in the expertise of the medical team at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
He said: “We had total 100 per cent faith and confidence in the surgeons and team here. We felt it was completely the right thing to do.”
Jen, a student veterinary nurse, has now almost completely recovered from the operation on January 16, while Dan still has some way to go.
But the New Zealand born IT worker says that every day is a major improvement for him since the breakthrough operation.
He said: “There is no feeling of impending doom hanging over me anymore. I have so much to look forward to and I feel like my life has been given back to me.
“I can’t find the words to thank these guys enough. Jen has saved my life and these guys gave her the opportunity to be able to do that. We are enormously grateful.”
The couple made a plea for organ donors to come forward and be tested, stressing the fact that this might not have been necessary if there were enough donors in Scotland.
Jen said: “I appeal to anyone who had ever thought of being a donor to do it. There are millions of people who die waiting for a lifesaving transplant.”
The pair met while Jen, of Kilwinning, Ayrshire, was travelling through Surfer’s Paradise in Queensland, Australia, where Dan worked as a rep.
They got married last May in a romantic beach wedding in Fiji.
A healthy individual can live without a full-sized liver because it is much bigger than needed and is capable of natural regeneration – growing back to its normal size within weeks.
Live donor liver transplantation has been used in countries worldwide for more than 15 years but was first carried out in the UK last July when a Leeds father successfully received part of his son’s liver.
John Forsythe, Director of the Transplant Unit, said: “We are delighted that the operation has gone so well. Both Dan and Jen are now back at home, out of hospital and doing well. They are looking forward to future successes.
“This operation marks the start of another potential option for patients on waiting lists. At the moment there is a 20 per cent mortality rate for people waiting. This option won’t be available for everyone, but it will work for some people.”
Surgeon Murat Akyol added: “This has been a truly extraordanary gift from Jen to Dan.”