herald

Sunday 22 July 2018

'I'm a lucky man', says cancer dad saved by liver transplant

David Earlie with wife Lisa, daughter Elizabeth and son Matthew, only 11 days before David’s diagnosis
David Earlie with wife Lisa, daughter Elizabeth and son Matthew, only 11 days before David’s diagnosis

A young father who had a life-saving liver transplant is showing his appreciation by campaigning for more donors.

David Earlie (38) said he is a "very lucky man" only months after a rare bile duct cancer turned his life upside down.

"I was flying along," he said. "My son Matthew was about to turn one, my daughter Elizabeth was turning three and work was going great.

"My wife Lisa had made an exciting career move. We had just bought our home."

With all that going on, David, of Goatstown, Dublin, was inclined to dismiss his feelings of tiredness.

However, after a couple of weeks Lisa, whose father, well-known Dublin GP Dr Michael Mehigan, died from cancer, persuaded him to visit their doctor.

Last March, consultant Justin Geoghegan told David he had a tumour and a transplant was mentioned for the first time.

However, he would have to undergo a range of treatment for his cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile duct, before the transplant.

David said there was then a "serendipitous moment" when his mother-in-law saw a newspaper article about a man named Brian Dillon, whose circumstances were very similar.

David contacted the Irish Kidney Association, which put him in touch with Brian and "this conversation steadied me for the road ahead."

There was a setback when David was admitted to St Vincent's Hospital with an infection.

Mr Geoghegan told David he had a perforated gallbladder and they would have to drain the infection to relieve the pressure.

"He explained that this would buy me a short window where a transplant would be a possibility," David said.

Generosity

"Otherwise they'd have to remove the gallbladder and take me off the transplant list for months. I knew I might never get back on the list."

However, David never had to face that prospect. Only a couple of hours later, he got a call saying there was a possibility they had a liver donor. The operation went ahead at 3am the next day.

When David woke up, he said, he was "overcome with emotion. Not just for what I and my family had been through but for the generosity of the donor and their family".

"I was alive because someone had the conversation with their family and the family carried through with those wishes," he said.

David is fully behind plans by Health Minister Simon Harris to introduce an "opt-out" system of donation.

"Until that happens, I would urge everyone to have the conversation with their families and loved ones. Having that conversation can tip the odds in favour of someone like me," he said

Organ donor cards can be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306, or Freetext the word DONOR to 50050.

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