Ski camp organiser and organ transplant survivor
In her own words, Liz explains how she faced up to having a life-saving organ transplant and how she’s used the experience to help children re-start their lives after organ transplant surgery.
“Facing death gives you a terrific sense of freedom,” says Liz. “From that point on, you make the most of every moment and that feeling has not gone away”.
Seven years ago, things were very different. Liz, a keen sportswoman and mum to Zoé (13) and James (16), had just learnt that her liver was failing fast.
Overnight, her life dramatically changed. “One day I was running 8km in Hyde Park , the next I was having a CAT scan and being told I had a life-threatening liver condition”.
Initially, Liz’s rare condition was misdiagnosed, but a final diagnosis meant Liz faced an urgent liver transplant.
“The lights went out: my life changed overnight. No one understood how I could be so alive and healthy one day and suddenly needing a transplant the next. Zoé kept asking my mother: ‘Mummy is not going to die, is she?’.
But my children fed my will to survive. The only place I felt safe was cuddled up next to them. I could not bear the idea of someone else bringing them up, or not being there for them. I believe that children are the best ambassadors of life.
I was lucky, my operation was successful and I am a living example of long-term survival. But the experience means I want children with an organ transplant to enjoy an active life and future. I want what happened to me to serve a purpose”.
Today Liz makes a difference to such kids. She built TACKERS from scratch, as a charity adventure camp for children with organ transplants. For many children at camp, it is their first opportunity to run, play and have fun as any ‘normal’ child. They also slip the sometimes over-protective arms of their parents and escape their struggle for long-term health.
“I used to believe that you have a transplant and you’re ‘cured’. But a transplant is only the start of a life-long battle and a daily cocktail of medicines, to keep the new organ healthy,” Liz says. “Children face the toughest battle. With a shortage of organs, it is critical that those receiving a transplant keep their new organs for life and continue to enjoy living”.
She also wants to show these children and people on transplant lists that there is life after transplantation. “We can have dreams too and achieve many things. I joined the Roche-sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro , for instance. I felt like my body had betrayed me, when I became ill, but by reaching the summit of Kili, we made peace again at 5895m! I encourage kids at TACKERS to have dreams and to strive to achieve them. We all need goals. Apart from Kili, TACKERS was my dream…we have not done badly considering….’’.
None of this is easy. Liz combines running her own business and bringing up a family with lobbying major companies, like Roche, to secure funds for TACKERS. Liz also keeps in touch with many of the children and families who attend camp, offering advice and an inspirational voice.
“Looking back over the past years, I can truly say you never know what life holds – funnily enough I have no regrets about having been ill, it has taught me so much. I’m a great believer of turning a minus into a plus. Life is for living. Don’t be scared. Get out there and make a difference”.
“When people ask me if I know who my donor is, I say my donor is my best friend. We’ve just never met, but we’ve climbed Mount Kilimanjaro together.” I feel like I owe my donor, I think he would be proud of what we do together. I know he was a young man. That is all I know about him.
One of the most rewarding things is to see the change in the children at the TACKERS camp, even in just a week. They leave transformed and full of confidence”.