Dad, 35, refused life-saving liver transplant: 'Ticking time bomb'

·5-min read

A desperate dad has been "left in limbo" waiting for life-saving treatment after he was refused a liver transplant due to "conflicting illnesses".

Chris Ansell, 35, from Yorkshire, in the UK, was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of bile-duct cancer three weeks ago, but also suffers from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic liver disease.

In a tragic twist of fate, due to the country's policy, the dad is unable to get on the waiting list for a new liver covered by the National Health Service (NHS) — the UK healthcare system — because he also has cancer.

Although his malignant tumour is currently small enough to manage, it's a "ticking time bomb" that if left untreated, could soon kill him.

Chris Ansell, who has been refused a liver transplant, with his family and in hospital.
The dad-of-one was refused a liver transplant because he has cancer. Source: Jam Press/Australscope

The worry of leaving his wife, Jo, and their daughter, Millie, four, is always on Mr Ansell's mind as he desperately tries to raise funds for surgery abroad.

"It's a catch-22, I can't get the liver transplant I need because I have cancer, and if I don't get it, the tumour might soon kill me," he said

"The worst part is the thought of leaving my family behind – it's eating me up inside. I live every day in a dark tunnel, I can't see the light."

Mr Ansell said he's "very grateful" to the doctors and nurses who have helped him so far, but admits "their hands are tied" and now he feels he's "been left to die."

He is currently waiting for a new policy change to help people in his position, but the longer he waits, the quicker his condition worsens.

"I have been told by the NHS that a new policy is coming but the date has been moved several times, and I can't do anything but sit and wait," he said.

"I'm still under review for a transplant but even if I do get one I have no idea where it will come from because I still won't be allowed a donor from Ireland or the UK."

Life-changing diagnosis

Before he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, Mr Ansell recalls rapidly losing weight.

It wasn't until a routine blood appointment that he was told that an anomaly had been found in his blood, and further investigation was needed.

After multiple procedures, he was later diagnosed with PSC, a chronic liver disease that slowly damages the bile ducts.

The dad with his daughter, Millie, four, and wife Jo.
The worry of leaving his wife, Jo, and their daughter, Millie, four, is always on Mr Ansell's mind. Source: JamPress/Australscope

"At the start, I remember taking 12 tablets a day, which helped to keep my chronic illness at bay," he said.

"I didn’t think much of it until I started to feel unwell six months ago. I began to show signs of jaundice and had been in and out of the hospital for the last three months."

Three weeks ago he was told he needed a liver transplant and that further investigation was needed as they suspected something more.

He said his "world came closing in" as he feared the worst, and on March 21 he was told he had cancer.

"I keep asking myself ‘what’s going to happen to my wife and daughter?'" he said.

"If I was to die, then I’m gone and I don’t have to worry about them. But my Jo will be left being as a single parent – I can’t bare thinking about it."

Dad desperate for another chance

Chris is trying to raise A$436,000 to help pay for the life-saving operation in Switzerland or Ireland, and so far he has received A$190,000 in donations. He is also considering cheaper options in India and Turkey.

"I still have a whole life to live and more memories to make," he said.

"I'm the only one who can determine my next steps and I have two choices; I can either push and ask for help – to decide that this is it and give up."

A spokesperson from NHS Blood & Transplant told UK media that "there is still a tragic shortfall in donor organs."

"We have systems in place to ensure precious donated organs are best used to save and improve as many lives as possible," they said.

"Patients may be listed for transplant based on a system of policies which are developed in conjunction with patients and patient groups, professional societies, and many other stakeholders through the NHSBT national advisory groups.

"These policies take into account many factors, including how much a patient might benefit from a particular donated organ. Some patients with some cancers are eligible for transplants."

They said hospital transplant units have the responsibility for making decisions on whether an individual patient should be listed for transplant based on the policy for each organ.

"If a patient does not meet the accepted criteria the transplant unit may still appeal to the organ specific 'National Appeals Panel', which includes clinicians from other transplant centres to ensure that every potential transplant patient has had a fair review," they added.

JamPress/Australscope

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