Last Night’s TV – Extraordinary People: The Man Who Shared His Liver

Darren and Christina - Extraordinary People: The Man Who Shared His Liver

What an exceptionally moving story this was of the lives of ordinary people who’ve had the bombshell of potentially terminal disease dropped on them.

The main focus of the documentary was Christina Wright who had liver cancer and although she was on the waiting list for a transplant, with the lack of organ donors in the UK, her chances of receiving a donor liver were slim, so her four children took it upon themselves to be tested as possible live organ donors, and ultimately, it was her son Darren who was the best match and the most “motivated” to donate half of his own healthy liver to his mother in order to save her life…

However, as liver surgeon Professor Peter Lodge said of the surgery, “It’s about the most major surgery you can consider to have” but the charming, down to earth and ordinary – but extraordinarily brave – family man Darren was adamant and determined to donate half his liver to his dying mother, irrespective of the risk to his own life.

Meanwhile, his mother had to struggle with the knowledge that her son stood a very real chance of dying or becoming extremely ill while trying to help her live, but without his help, the chances are, she would have died within a year or so… but what a horrible dilemma for a mother to face.

This quiet, unassuming lady – who was clearly devoted to her children – knew what a risk her son was taking for her and inevitably, Christina had to consider the unthinkable such as, what if my son dies and I live? How would I cope with knowing my child died trying to save my life, which he achieved but sacrificed his own to do so?

For me personally, that would negate my life being saved anyway, and Christina’s frequent emotional and very touching battles with those issue were heart rending to watch and had me in tears repeatedly.

In fact, the emotions faced by everyone in the family, including Darren’s girlfriend, were painfully raw and hard to watch as they awaited the day the simultaneous surgeries were to happen; a day when both Darren and Christina could well have died at any point during the marathon 12 hour simultaneous operations.

Thankfully, when the time came, after weeks of intensive tests and gut wrenching “what ifs” – and for Darren, trying to lose weight and get as physically healthy as possible – they both came through their operations and at the end of the programme, we saw a remarkably well looking Christina and Darren attending the wedding of Spencer, one of Christina’s three sons.

One other person featured in the programme was not so fortunate; Jim had liver disease that was caused by alcohol and he too was on the waiting list for a transplant but his doctors feared that he simply wouldn’t survive long enough to get one, so again, in acts of tremendous selflessness, his wife Sandy, son James and his neighbour John offered to be living donors. However, during the phase of extensive physical and psychological testing on James – who it was decided was the best candidate to donate to his father – Jim’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he died of kidney failure.

Another patient with liver disease was Joanna whose condition meant that she was so ill, every day could have been her last and her husband David had given up his job to be her full-time carer. Joanna and David were childless, so in terms of living donors, only David was a candidate, which he was desperate to be and do as soon as possible. However it happily transpired that a suitable liver became available for Joanna via organ donation, and I assume Joanna made it as the last we saw of her was when she was in the ITU recovering from her transplant.

I have to say, this programme was perhaps one of the most emotional I’ve seen in a long time. Watching the suffering of each individual featured reduced me to tears several times as I mentioned, but of course the main focus of the programme were both Christina and Darren who, as I said, are just ordinary people who demonstrated inordinate bravery and – on Darren’s part – a selflessness that renews one’s faith in human nature and demonstrates what people will do for those they love. It was heart warming and heart rending at the same time.

As I was watching the programme, I asked myself if I would allow my children to risk their lives to save mine? The answer is, I don’t know and I pray I never have to find out, but one message above all came across loud and clear in the programme; there simply aren’t enough organ donors in this country.

My personal opinion is that it should be mandatory to donate organs where possible after a person has died unless that person or his/her immediate family expressly forbid it.

Myself and several members of my family carry donor cards and are registered with the national organ donor database which you can find here and where you can become registered yourself and find out more about organ donation.

Ultimately, being on the register means that in the event of your death, your wish to donate organs are known and it negates putting that decision entirely on your loved ones at a time when they’re deeply upset and therefore perhaps prone to making decisions based upon emotion rather than logic.

After all, any one of us or our loved ones could, at any time, find ourselves in the same situation as the brave men and women featured last night and as this highly emotive documentary showed, the pain, grief and suffering of ordinary people, just like you and I, who are racing against the clock and against what amounts to a ticking time bomb is soul destroying, but it can have a happy ending, and thankfully, for everyone except Jim and his family who were featured last night, that’s just what they got and justly deserved.

What brave people they all were and are… it’s terribly sad that Jim didn’t make it but joyous that the others did.

So what do you think of the issue of organ donation? Do you, like me, believe it should be mandatory unless expressly forbidden by the deceased’s family or are you someone who wouldn’t donate organs after your death, and if so, why wouldn’t you? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.