CASE STUDY: Thomas in Berkshire
Chronic liver failure (caused by alcoholism) usually results in 1) death, or 2) a lifesaving liver transplant. You’d think that the lucky few who are given a transplant would never drink another drop of alcohol again, wouldn’t you?
Thomas – a 68-year-old retired civil engineer from Windsor – was back on the booze within weeks of returning home from hospital, post-transplant; something he bitterly regrets now:
“I regret it, yes. And I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, the waiting list for liver transplants is considerably lengthy. I was one of the fortunate people to be given what is a life-saving procedure. And then – post-op – I reverted back to my old drinking ways very quickly. I’d suffered chronic liver failure through decades of alcohol abuse. I was dying. Yet, ultimately, the urge to hit the bottle still proved too strong to resist.”
About the liver
Believe it or not, the human liver has a whopping 500 functions! Don’t worry, you won’t have to wade through an exhaustive list here. What follows is a kind of ‘snapshot’ of the liver, how alcohol affects it, and why you really need to protect it. So, without further ado…
- Is the largest organ in the human body
- Breaks down food
- ‘Converts’ food into much-needed energy
- Helps the body to get rid of waste
- Is extremely susceptible to disease through excessive alcohol consumption (early symptoms of liver disease include: abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue)
- Plays a key role in alcoholism detoxification
The good news (for reformed alcoholics) is that damage to the liver caused by regularly binge drinking is not always irreversible. For some people, a complete cessation of alcohol abuse (coupled with the adoption of a healthy diet and exercise regime) can see a diseased and damaged liver gradually repair itself.
Liver transplantation – what’s involved?
Simply put, a liver transplant operation involves removing a damaged or diseased liver from the patient and replacing it with a healthy liver from a donor.
That all sounds very straightforward, but the organ can sometimes be rejected by the body, therefore there is no way of telling if a donated organ is a ‘100% match’ until the transplanted liver’s functionality and performance is monitored over an extended period, post-op.
“At first, all can seem well, but then – sometimes as long as 6 to 9 months after surgery – the transplanted liver can begin to become dysfunctional or fail altogether,” Thomas explains. “It’s essential that the recipient of the donated organ does not abuse their body in any way in that crucial first year. But I did…”
“I simply couldn’t fight the compulsion to drink, despite all I had been through, and all that I had put my family through. I am now at risk of becoming seriously ill again. Only entering an alcoholism rehab treatment clinic can save me now.”