This week we’re proudly supporting Organ Donation Week. To highlight just how life-changing transplantation can be, we spoke to Mark Tompkinson, a dad from Sheffield who had ten organs removed and six replaced through transplants:
Mark’s ‘miracle’ operation which gave him the ‘Gift of Life’
A Message to Spread
Many of you may already have seen my article in the Sheffield Star recently. For those of you reading this that didn’t manage to buy a copy, I have attached the link below to the online piece.
The most important bit is at the end of the article and was the main reason for me and my family taking what was a difficult decision to go public with my story. We made this decision because we wanted to raise awareness of the vital need for people to consider signing up to the Organ Donation Register.
But just as important, is the need for people to tell their loved ones that they have registered and that they would like their wishes respected in the event of their death. I am, therefore, so delighted that Westfield Health picked up on this and asked me to write a blog. I didn’t hesitate one little bit in agreeing to their request, especially in advance and support of Organ Donation Week.
So, back to my story. I was diagnosed with an incurable and rare form of cancer three and a half years ago. I had two operations to try and ‘de-bulk’ the tumour and three rounds of chemotherapy within this period.
After being told all treatment options had been exhausted I was then given the news nobody would want to hear – my illness was terminal and, at best, I had 18 months left to live under palliative care. After planning my funeral, getting my finances in order and, yes, even clearing out the garage, I received a call from my Consultant at the Christie Hospital in Manchester.
Totally out of the blue, it was suggested that a modified multi-visceral transplant aka a multi-organ transplant could be another treatment option for me to consider.
After rigorous tests to ensure I was suitable and also fit enough for such a pioneering transplant procedure, I was listed and shortly afterwards I received the call – donor organs had become available.
With my wife and two sons I set off to the Oxford Transplant Centre not knowing if I would be alive at the end of the next 24 hours. I say this because the operation had only been performed on four people worldwide with my condition before, with only two people surviving the procedure.
Also, a 25kg tumour had never been removed from anybody before during this surgery – a world first in this respect. I was also conscious that I had two organs removed previously so to have ten organs removed in total was new territory.
So, I travelled down with odds of 50/50 I would still be alive the following day. I was scared, my family was scared but we didn’t talk about it.
We knew the odds but all we could think of was that I had been given a chance, a chance that had been created by the love, kindness and the ultimate in generosity of a donor and the donor’s family.
I am convinced holding on to this thought gave me the strength to get through a 17-hour operation involving the transplantation of six organs from the same donor, five weeks in intensive care and four weeks in a high dependency specialist transplant ward.
Running for Awareness
So, here I am, I survived. The operation was a success and now I am all set to run a 10k in Sheffield to continue to raise awareness. All because I was fortunate to receive the ‘Gift of Life’ from somebody that I will not be able to meet but will be with me for, hopefully, a long time to come.
A Thank You
I owe it to my donor, my donor’s family to take care of my gift and every single day I will wake up and say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to make plans, thank you for allowing me to love my family, thank you for giving me a future, thank you for letting me feel normal again and, most importantly, thank you for giving me my life back.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the NHS and the many teams that have and continue to care for me. They are all incredible ‘miracle workers’ – thank you for your professionalism, your dedication, your expertise and your love.
You can also read my story on my Just Giving page. Link attached. If you would consider donating to benefit the Oxford Transplant Foundation I would be so grateful – thank you.