By Adam Gretton
, Health correspondent
Monday, February 4, 2013
A Norwich man has made an emotional plea for more people to join the organ donor register - 14 years after he received new lungs from a mystery donor.
Mike Amis will never forget January 10, 1999 when he received a life changing phone call.
“It was a Sunday night and I was getting ready for work and was eating a bag of crisps when Papworth Hospital called and said an ambulance would be picking me up in three minutes,” he said.
A few hours later, he was in an operating theatre receiving a new pair of lungs, thanks to an organ donor he never knew and has never been able to trace.
Fourteen years on from the risky transplant operation in Cambridge, the 68-year-old and his wife Kath often think about the family who lost a loved one, which enabled him to live a full and active life again after he was diagnosed with a rare hereditary disorder.
“We know they come from Newcastle and it was indicated that it was from a young man. It is a very emotional thing, even now, and a month after the transplant I wrote a short letter expressing my thanks, which was sent through an intermediary, but I never received a reply from the family,” he said.
The father-of-three and grandfather-of-seven, who lives in Theatre Street, started suffering from breathing difficulties in 1985, which was originally diagnosed as asthma. However, his health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with emphysema, caused by Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency - a condition that affects 1 in 100,000 people.
The condition led to the deterioration of the businessman’s lungs, which made every day tasks a struggle, and he was hooked up to an oxygen supply for 22 hours a day.
Mr Amis, who is a director for UK Fixings.com, in Vulcan Road, Norwich, said he would get breathless after walking 20 yards, before the transplant. He added that it was unlikely they would ever find out who he received his healthy lungs from and the circumstances behind the donation.
His wife said: “It is up to the donor family if they want to contact you. We can write, but it goes through an intermediary. We do think about them and every year I think it is the start of a new life for Mike, but someone had to sadly lose their life. We are tremendously grateful for the gift and generosity of the donor. It must have been a very painful time for the family.”
Mr Amis was on the organ donor waiting list for six months before a match was found for him. After his late night call in January 1999, he was in surgery for more than five hours at the Papworth Hospital. He spent a month recovering in hospital and within six weeks of the operation, he was back at work.
Mr Amis has check-ups every six months and takes medication every day to make sure his body does not reject his lungs.
“Only 20pc of lung transplant patients are alive after ten years and I feel very privileged and lucky to be alive. We try to make the most of life and have been all over the world and all over Europe,” he said.
The couple also called on as many people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register and urged them to let loved ones know of their intention to donate organs upon their death.
Mrs Amis said: “It has changed our family and it has changed our family’s and friends’ perception of organ donation. All of our family and friends have seen the benefits and amazing changes it has made to Mike. We are big supporters of the organ donor scheme.”