A YOUNG man from Lockerbie has had a ‘whirlwind’ start to the year after receiving a life saving liver transplant just a few weeks ago.
Sam Armstrong-Pattie, 25, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare, immune-mediated liver disease that targets the bile ducts and liver, in July 2022.
Following his diagnosis, things began to move quickly for Sam and he was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in January 2023 for further testing. That showed that the condition had begun to attack and deteriorate his liver and he was quickly put on the transplant list.
Explaining more, Sam said this week: “I was given the option to have the transplant done in Birmingham or go with the Scottish Transplant Unit in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, which I took because it’s obviously closest to home.
“I went up there to have my transplant assessment in May 2023 over three days. After that it was decided that I was able to have transplant and I was put on the transplant list. Then it was a waiting game, I could have received a phone call any day at any point.”
There were a couple of disappointments in the months that followed for Sam and his partner Chelsea Aitchison, as one potential liver found in July was no longer viable because of issues with the donor graft and then another found in August was also a no-go.
He said: “So we didn’t hear anything until December 20, my partner and I had just come off night shift at 6 in the morning and I received the phone call that there was a potential liver for me and I needed to get to Edinburgh as soon as possible.
“I made my way to Edinburgh with Chelsea and my mum and we were at the hospital for 10 am and I was in theatre by 11.45 am.”
Following the operation, he was taken into intensive care at about midnight stayed there for a day and half, then was moved into the high dependancy ward on December 23.
Said Sam: “I’ve made really good progress because a lot of people can be in the ICU for up to a week and then go the high dependency ward, but I was home in about eight days.”
Now back in Lockerbie and continuing his recovery at home, Sam has described the experience as a ‘whirlwind’, saying: “The whole thing has been going on for about 18 months, so it’s been really quick.
“And that’s the thing with PSC, some folk can go years and years with very minimal symptoms but there’s me who didn’t know I had it, needed a transplant and got one that quick so it’s been a whirlwind and now my life is completely different.
“There was nothing that I could’ve done to prevent or change it [the diagnosis], that was the hand I was dealt and I had to get on with it there was no point sitting about moping and thinking ‘this is rubbish’. I just took on the mindset that it is what is is and this [the transplant] is what needs to happen.
“We’ve had to continue on our life as best as we could but it did get difficult towards the end because my jaundice got really really bad.”
Chelsea added: “It’s obviously been a really hard time for us both but we’ve known each other for 13 years, we met at school and I think having that friendship makes such a difference.
“We got through this together because there was nothing else for it.”
Over the next six weeks Sam will return to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for weekly check-ups and with all going well, should make a full recovery in three months.
Both Sam and Chelsea could not be more thankful to the hospital staff for their support and care, Chelsea said: “Even with me and Sam’s mum, they were absolutely amazing. We were allowed go see him in the ICU when he came out of surgery at midnight, and they phoned us again at 2 am to let us know they had taken his breathing tube out and they let us in to see him again. We couldn’t thank them enough, they let us see him any time we wanted.”
Now the couple are looking forward spending more time with their friends and family and getting back to normal.
Sam added: “I’m just looking forward to going places. I can’t go abroad for at least a year but we’re hoping to do the North Coast 500 this year, and we like to go see shows, so we’re hoping to do more of that this year.”
* About seven people per million get diagnosed with PSC each year in the UK and it can affect people of any age. Find more information at https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/
To find out more about organ donation, go to www.organdonation.scot