A patient who missed out six times on a liver transplant has finally received the gift of life — thanks to his mother and the dedicated team at the Royal Free Hospital (RFH).

Connor Meyrick, 27, received 65% of his mother Michelle’s liver during an arduous 12-hour operation – the first live liver transplant to take place at the RFH in five years. Both are now recovering at the family home in Swindon.

Connor was born with Caroli’s syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which ultimately may require a liver transplant to prevent fatal complications.

He discovered he had the condition at the age of 17 after seeking treatment at hospital for severe acne. A blood test to confirm whether or not he was able to tolerate the acne medication showed an anomaly in his liver function which led to his diagnosis.

Despite being placed on the transplant list three years ago, Connor found himself missing out time after time on a donor liver. 

“Psychologically missing out on the transplant each time was extremely difficult to deal with,” admitted Connor. “As the years passed the symptoms got worse. I was very fatigued, suffered from under the skin itching, crazy headaches, awful acne and because I was jaundiced my skin was very yellow.

“Also being on the list meant I always had to be within two hours from hospital so that meant no going away. That also affected my ability to do my engineering job so I had to go part-time and do desk work instead, until it got to the point where I couldn’t even go into work anymore.”

But everything changed last September when doctors at the RFH raised the prospect of a live liver transplant. Currently just three in 100 liver transplants performed in the UK are from living donors and the majority of these are for children. The RFH had not conducted a live liver transplant for more than five years, but they were keen to offer Connor the opportunity.

Because Connor’s mum Michelle, 54, had the same blood type as her son, she was considered an appropriate candidate and agreed to go ahead with the donation. 

She said: “As time went on Connor was getting more poorly so when the doctors mentioned live liver transplantation as an option we were keen to explore it. Initially the worry was that as I’m just 5ft 1in my liver might not be big enough but eventually it was confirmed it was and after five months of test after test we finally got the thumbs up.”

Michelle and Connor pre-surgery

Michelle and Connor pre-surgery

Michelle spent over six hours on the operating table where the living donor operation was carried out by Satheesh Iype. As soon as she was able to she then went to visit Connor at his bedside (see main picture).

Michelle said: “Frankly I would have done anything for Connor. He was worried about putting me through a major operation and it was me that had to persuade him that this was the right thing for everyone and that if the shoe had been on the other foot I know he’d have done it for me.

“Knowing that I’ll be able to let him go off without worrying about how far he is from a hospital means everything. I’m feeling better day by day and I have no regrets. I’d make the same decision in a heartbeat.

“I would like to thank the Royal Free Hospital team, especially Satheesh, who was so meticulous throughout the testing process and the surgery, and the transplant co-ordinators, with special thanks to Emma Harkin for looking after me from beginning to end.”

Michelle plans to return to her job in HR once she is fully recovered. It will take just two to three months for her liver to grow back to its former size.

Connor’s former liver, which due to his condition had swelled to more than double the average size, has now been preserved and will be used as a university teaching tool. Meanwhile Connor is slowly recovering.

Connor said: “I want to say thank you to my family, especially of course my mum. There have been so many ups and downs along the way but I’d also like to say a huge thank you to my surgeon and everyone who has played their part in my recovery.

“It feels amazing to be able to plan after so long and I’ve already booked tickets for a gig in Liverpool, seeing the comedian Jimmy Carr and a trip to Newbury Races. Who knows, I might be able to finally go abroad again in the not too distant future!”

Connor’s surgeon, Professor Joerg-Matthias Pollok, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to help Connor. There are many more logistics to consider for live liver donation as you always have to think of the potential major risks to the donor and do everything in your power to avoid these. But for patients like Connor the option for live liver donation should be there. For the surgeon, if the liver comes from a live donor the blood vessels are smaller and shorter and therefore it’s a more technically challenging operation to undertake.”

Michelle’s surgeon, Satheesh, added: “Live liver donation is much more prevalent in other countries. I’ve done many of these surgeries in the past and was delighted to do it again. The living donor liver donation is facilitated through a very systematic process and requires meticulous surgical planning. I think demand for live liver donation will rise in the UK because of newer indications for liver transplant – such as colonic or neuroendocrine cancer which has spread to the liver, which does not have a standard surgical option.”

Mother and son recovering at home