A CHARITY worker who had six of her organs transplanted after being given six months to live has returned to work.
Dawn Carter, of Northallerton, has become one of three patients in Britain to survive a single six-organ transplant operation, in which she was given a new stomach, liver, kidney, colon, pancreas and small intestine.
Of 88,000 transplants undertaken in Britain, fewer than 30 have involved three or more organs being implanted at once.
The former intensive care nurse was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease in 2011, after 21 years of receiving all her food and drink intravenously having previously had part of her colon removed.
Despite being told she needed a multi-organ transplant, the 53-year-old remained positive that a match donor would be found.
Following the death of a female donor in her 20s, a 12-strong team, including four surgeons, was rapidly assembled at Addenbrookes Hospital, in Cambridge, to carry out 17 hours of surgery to implant the organs.
She said: “I was scared, but also had a sense of acceptance because I knew I had no choices left.”
One of the surgeons, Andrew Butler, said it had been vital to start the transplants as quickly as possible after the donor died. Ms Carter, who helps Northallerton and District Voluntary Service Association volunteers to match their skills and interests, then underwent 12 further operations following complications and spent nine weeks in intensive care.
After five months in hospital, during which time she learned to walk again and had a 17-pint blood transfusion, the motorsport fan and keen artist was able to return home to continue her recovery while taking 18 pills a day.
She said: “It was very challenging afterwards. I had lots and lots of complications, so it seemed at one point as though I was never going to get back on my feet again. But once I started making progress the progress has been quite rapid and I am managing to do a lot of things I haven't been able to do for some time.
“There is a great deal of satisfaction just being able to say I have made it this far. Everything is looking very positive.”
Ms Carter said she had recently returned to work one afternoon a week and is launching a support group for multi-organ transplant patients and their families.
She said: “There is not a day that goes by when you don’t silently thank them [the donor’s family] for making that decision. It is a very sad situation that somebody has got to die to enable you to live, but what greater gift can somebody give you?”