Blog / Why have I decided to become a donor? / Last Train for New Life
Why have I decided to become a donor?
Last Train for New Life
Stevan Gajić,
Last Train for New Life
I was 22 when I started working at a sanitary ware showroom. The job was physically demanding, so I lost 20 kg in one year. Since I had been a bit overweight, I did not mind it. On the contrary, I enjoyed it, as long as the people around me started asking me if I was OK. Then they started warning me of the yellow colour of my skin and my eye-whites.

I had not noticed that until then. I was convinced I was healthy and that other people were exaggerating. And then, my skin started to itch – an unbearable skin itch which I was not able to get rid of, no matter what I did. I scratched my skin over and over, making wounds on my arms and legs but I could not make that itch disappear. It was omnipresent and I wished I could run out of my own skin.

Finally, I went to see a doctor. The biochemical results were indicative of extremely elevated hepatic transaminases. All the parameters were elevated and everyone got alarmed. I was informed I would have to be hospitalised for further detailed tests.

I was first admitted at the Infectious Diseases Clinic, since I was suspected of suffering from hepatitis. The liver biopsy determined that I was suffering from PSC – primary sclerosing cholangitis, so I was referred to the gastrointestinal clinic, where my medical treatment continued.

In the meantime, I was diagnosed with another autoimmune disease – ulcerous colitis. In spite of doing everything in their power, the doctors did not manage to stop the progressive diseases that got active and joined forces in order to finish me up.

Between 2013 and 2015, I was hospitalised many times due to various complications and additional tests. There were many occasions when I wanted to give up everything and quit my medical treatment. It somehow seemed to me that no matter what they did to me, my life was inevitably leaking out of me.

And finally… I did give up. I stopped going to checkups, and I took my therapy according to the last medical report. Three months have passed and I could not recognise myself anymore. I wasn’t able to work or study...

If it weren’t for my parents, I don’t know how I would go through it. Without any income or medical insurance, it was impossible to live or get medical treatment. I had to give up everything, since the disease exhausted me. I lacked energy even for the simplest things to do in the house. Everything seemed to have required a lot of effort, so I decided to return to seeing my doctor – my saviour, again. He did an ultrasound scan, wrote a report and told me to get an appointment.

On my way to the appointment desk, I read the last sentence of the report where a list was mentioned; however, I had not seen the abbreviation used there before. Although I knew what kind of a list that was I simply refused to acknowledge that I arrived that far.

Moreover, I kept refusing to acknowledge I had any serious health problems over those years – let alone a... liver transplantation. I was considering other options as well. I wanted to try alternative medicine, I was asking myself if there was any remedy, tea, magic potion, anything... anything that would save me from the ‘surgeon’s knife’. However, I had already lost the power to fight by then.

Nonetheless, when I was hospitalised in July 2015, I could not escape the reality any more. The doctor approached my bed with some papers in his hands. I was supposed to sign consent, as a precondition for transplantation preparations to start. I was advised it was for my benefit and that there was no other option. This was my last chance.

Honestly, I didn’t care much. It seemed to me ‘my dying time has come’ and that it should be so. I was pondering whether to sign the consent or not. My mother convinced me to try nevertheless, not to give up. She was my strongest voice of reason. She did not understand my fear.

It wasn’t a fear of the end of life, to put it nicely. For when the life ends, apparently all the troubles end as well, isn’t it? What I feared most, was a possibility of all of that having been in vain. What if the disease returned and the transplanted liver got diseased, too? What if the transplant got rejected or if some other complications occurred? What if... and a million more doubts and questions.

And then, there was something else as well. There was a very important and frightening question I am pondering over even today. Why is my life so important that someone else must die in order for me to continue living?

Brooding over I realised I had nothing to lose, and then I signed for my ticket and boarded that last train. Its destination – new life, new chance.

After eight months, the first call for transplantation arrived. There were three of us. Each of us left our belongings on the ground floor of the Emergency Centre. We changed to pyjamas and we were escorted to the transplantation ward. We were placed in beds and then the real show started. The medical technicians were running around juggling syringes, needles, enema devices, vials, and test tubes. They were hastily entering the scene, since a new lead actor had to be selected within two hours. In the meantime, the doctor had collected scans, x-rays, and documentation of all of us and took them to the surgeons to decide whom to give priority accordingly.

The liver of that day’s donor was too big for me and another candidate. Yet, it was perfect for the third one. I sighed with relief, relaxed; I changed my clothes and returned home. This is how that 17th March 2016 passed. I was relieved I was not selected then, but I was also sorry, since if I had been selected, the waiting would have been over. I would not have to live in uncertainty and fear any longer.

My phone rang again on 1st April already. A voice told me they had a potential donor for me again. For a second, it occurred to me it was an April Fools’ Day joke, because there had been less than a month since the first call. I got ready and within an hour I was there, at the reception desk of the Emergency Centre.

This time I was alone. I did not bring anyone with me. Everything else was the same as on the previous occasion. Only this time, the limelight was on me. I would say I developed a kind of stage fright from all that attention and I went silent. I was just lying still and staring at the doctor. After a short break, everyone approached me smiling and they started reassuring me that everything was going to be all right and that I had nothing to be afraid of. I knew that. Yet, I did worry.

Then, the second act of the performance unfolded in which I had not participated the previous time. Shower, swabs, elastic socks and straight to the operating theatre. I lay on the operating table, got connected to the infusion, anaesthesia, and then I took the opportunity to thank everyone in the room for being there. The anaesthesiologist who was watching me closely said: ‘We can start now.’ and then I fell asleep.

The next morning was beautiful. April. The sun is shining. I immediately asked them to open the window for me and to let life again into my room. I wanted to breathe the fresh air, to hear the sound of the city, people… in spite of being festooned with tubes and bags, with gauze over my belly, I felt like a born again man. Again, I had to learn to walk, to breathe, to stand straight, to laugh… just like a little child … as if I had been born again.

I know it will never happen, but if I ever met the people who gave their consent to have the liver of their dearest one given to me, I could not do anything else but to thank them, since they gave the consent for me to continue my life, to dream, to daydream and to plan my future. Until that moment I did not dare to think about or plan for anything longer than the following day, since I did not know what could happen next. I just struggled to go through another day. Now, I dare to daydream again, to have plans and think about what my life is going to be like in ten years.
Stevan Gajić,