IT WAS third time lucky for Tamworth transplant recipient Steve Gribbin as he settles into his new lease on life.
Mr Gribbin was on the transplant list for more than a year after hepatitis C damaged his liver.
He was told his liver had about three months left when he had his transplant, which was the third time he’d been called to Sydney for the operation.
“The other two weren’t suitable when we got there,” he said.
“The first time at Royal Prince Alfred, they did all the tests and a lady came out with a phone and the transplant co-ordinator said the liver was no good, so we came home.
“The second time, they took me to pre-op and wheeled me into the anaesthetist, and the phone rang from the operating theatre next door to say that liver was no good.
“The third time we got a call at 5pm (on January 23) to see if we could be in Sydney by 7am the next day. Every time the phone rang, we would answer and wonder if this was the call, so we had our bags ready – we just had to grab the essentials.”
Mr Gribbin said friends drove him and wife Faye to his sister’s place on the Central Coast, arriving at 3am – the same friends who had driven them down the first time.
Mrs Gribbin said the main thing was to have a plan with friends to collect the dog and to collect them.
“When we went down the third time, it felt different,” she said.
“We knew what to expect and it was a lot quicker. His sister and I waited around because we didn’t know if he was coming back out (if the liver wasn’t suitable), but we felt this was the time.”
Mr Gribbin said he had five tubes fitted in pre-op, as well as drains, and Mrs Gribbin saw him 12 hours later in the intensive care unit.
The couple thought it could be the last time they saw each other when he went in for the transplant.
“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to get out, because all the way through (hepatitis C), whatever happened to only 10 per cent of people, I had happen; and three out of 10 people die on the table, so I thought that would be what happened.”
Mrs Gribbin said her husband had been in so much pain for so long, suffering through hepatitis C and then his liver deteriorating, that just weeks before the transplant, he told her he didn’t know how much longer he could go on.
“He couldn’t do anything for so long,” Mrs Gribbin said.
“It was hard seeing him like that.”
Mr Gribbin said he first remembered waking up two days after the transplant in “horrendous pain”.
“I was so full of drugs, but the pain wouldn’t go away,” he said.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
Mr Gribbin had a slight chest infection after he was in the ICU, which was treated quickly.
“Every day I just got better and better,” he said.
Once he returned home, he suffered from an adhesion when his small intestine was stuck to scar tissue, which caused a blockage. He spent five days in Tamworth hospital then five days in RPA.
Not surprisingly, Mr Gribbin is a strong advocate for organ donation and said it was amazing that families donated their loved ones’ organs.
“Someone has had the worst day ever because their loved one has died, but they have given the gift of life,” he said.
“They have made it so much easier now with being able to register as a donor online.”
He now has to avoid listeria, is an insulin-dependent diabetic and is on a cocktail of medication each day.
Mr Gribbin has weekly blood tests and will travel to RPA monthly for the first year post-transplant.
He is now grabbing his new life with both hands, volunteering with Hepatitis NSW, Transplant Australia and as the face of the Rotary transplant program.