Margaret’s Story

Margaret and Jack Watkins at Niagara Falls

Summer 2016 – Margaret rang the Core office to tell us she had included a gift to Core in her will. She was prompted to share her story when she read about the Dr Falk/Core research prizes awarded to young investigators in the area of liver disease. Here is Margaret and Jack’s story…

“Jack’s Transplant

My husband Jack received a liver transplant at the beginning of 1994 in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

It was found that he had a problem on a visit to our GP with a slight jaundice. There was some possible concern that this might be Weill’s Disease, as he was a keen canoeist and in training for a big national race on the Thames.
Weill’s Disease can be fatal and may be caused by river water, where there are rats.

He was then referred to the Liver Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he made fairly frequent visits over about a year. He was told finally that his only chance would be a liver transplant. After a stay of 2-3 days in the Liver Unit, he was found to be suitable and put in the donor list in early November 1993.
This was very good news for us (but sad for some people in the ward, who were not found to be suitable – for various medical reasons). Jack was given a bleeper (to be carried at all times).

On New Year’s Day 1994 he received a call from the QE to say that a donor organ was available. Fortunately our daughter was on holiday from university and was able to take us to the QE.

It would have possible for close relatives to stay at the QE but as we were not far away, Helen and I decided to come home and return the next day.

I cannot praise the staff at the QE too highly. They were wonderful. We were given a Donor Rep who was most helpful.

The operation was a great success and Jack was able to return home after a fairly short time.

After about a year, we attended a celebration at the QE for families of donors and recipients. About the time that Jack had his op, a baby received a transplant which was from part of an adult liver. I believe the first time this had been done.
At the celebration party we saw the baby, now a very healthy one year old with her happy parents.

When Jack was in the liver ward, there was a young man who had just finished his A levels and was visited by some of his friends from the VI form at his school. His op did not go too smoothly at first and his mother stayed for some weeks at the hospital.
When we went to the party we saw a lovely photo of the young man, fit and healing and rowing a boat.

Through the Transplant Co-ordinator we were able to send a letter to the donor family.

After a fairly short recovering period, Jack was able to return to his post as a lecturer in Electrical Installations at our local FE College where he continued until retiring at the end of the autumn term in 1996.

Jack was able to see his son and daughter graduate and their marriages and to become a doting granddad to 2 boys.

Following retirement, Jack became involved in a member of activities: Although he did not feel he should take part in long distance canoe racing but was a very active member of our local canoe club – instructing young people, making canoes, helping young people at a special school in a local area. He became the voluntary warden at a nature reserve nearby.

We had many wonderful holidays in the UK and camping in Europe and visit to the States where our daughter and her husband were living. In July 2002 we were staying in California, when Joe our younger grandson was born.

Jack died in 2006 following a heart problem in no way connected with his liver.”
-Margaret Watkins

Margaret’s legacy will enable Core’s future research programme, to help understand more about digestive diseases and help more patients like Jack.