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From birthday illness to life-saving transplant, Warwickshire mum Rebecca Vanni tells her story

Rebecca with her daughter Elia. (49202847)
Rebecca with her daughter Elia. (49202847)

AFTER falling ill during her birthday celebrations in July, Rebecca Vanni was given the shocking news that she had liver failure, caused by seronegative hepatitis.

Within weeks the Stratford mum was listed for an urgent liver transplant as hers was functioning at just 5 per cent. Days later she received the operation and was heading home to partner, Kevin and daughter, Elia, 18.

According to a new report by NHS Blood and Transplant, Rebecca, 48, was one of 162 people in the West Midlands who had their lives saved by an organ transplant, despite the strains that Covid-19 put on the NHS in the last year.

“It was a real shock to become so ill so quickly,” Rebecca said. “I felt a bit rough, then I started going yellow. It took time to get diagnosed due to Covid then I was told I needed a transplant and had one within days. It’s hard to believe that can happen, especially with Covid.

“I was worried about the doctors being tired and there being less chance of a transplant, but I felt very safe in hospital and everyone has been amazing.

“It was hard and difficult to get my head round as I couldn’t see my family until I had had my transplant and was recovering.”

She added: “Physically I am doing well, mentally there has been a lot to cope with – we were also moving house during all of this. I called Kevin and Elia before my transplant and they were building her new bed and I thought this might be it, I might never see Elia in her new room or see them again.

“Ten days after my surgery I went home. My quality of life is so much better than before the operation and I’ve got a life and I can do things.

“I appreciate things, the simple things – I’ve got to see my daughter celebrate her 18th birthday and pass her driving test. I’ve got a home with my partner Kevin after being a single parent for a long time and I’m back to work.”

Rebecca is planning a parachute jump to raise money for the British Liver Trust.

“I think of my donor and their family every day,” she said. “I’m very grateful for what they did. I can’t imagine how Christmas and birthdays and high days and holidays must be, they must miss them.

“I hope they’re proud and take comfort from the lives saved.”

The Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Annual Activity Report 2020/21 shows that, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, donation levels were sustained at 75 per cent for deceased donation activity and around 80 per cent for normal transplant activity.

John Forsythe, medical director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “This past year has been completely unprecedented in the history of the NHS, as well as in our wider society. So, the fact that 168 people in the West Midlands received an organ transplant is amazing.

“However incredible this achievement, we mustn’t forget that there are still thousands of people in need of lifesaving organ transplants and we are doing our utmost to work with clinical teams and donor families to try and close the gap between those receiving a transplant and those still waiting.”

A change in the law last May means it will be assumed that people want to be a donor after death.

However, Covid-19 did have an impact on living donations – there were just 18 in the West Midlands due to a pause the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme for the safety of patients and donors. The scheme has now resumed.

For more information, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

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