Man back from 'jaws of death' after huge tumour removed from belly
PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:39 12 February 2020
A Norwich man who is the third person in the world to survive a bowel transplant operation after being diagnosed with a rare cancer has praised the medical staff that saved his life.
Reza Khosravi underwent the procedure in 2018 to remove a tumour after being diagnosed with a rare cancer called Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP).
The 57-year-old has undergone two operations, lasting 10 hours or more, after his Norwich GP first identified a mass in his abdomen in 2013.
Mr Khosravi, originally from Iran, experienced severe low energy despite being a keen skier, trampoline coach and footballer but had not received a diagnosis from previous GPs when he lived elsewhere in England and Wales.
During the first procedure in 2013 half his stomach, spleen and part of his small bowel was removed, alongside the tumour.
He said: "The tumour was absolutely huge and they managed to remove it all. I thought I had put the whole experience behind me and was going to make the most of my life and appreciate it."
After six months recovery, he returned to work in 2014 at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and went to gym to recover his strength, where he met his future wife Irina.
But the following year the couple were hit with the news the tumour may be returning with doctors finding it was inoperable.
The retired oral surgeon said: "It has been an unbelievable experience. There was not much expectation by anyone for me to see Christmas 2018. I was offered a bed for end of life care.
"I think it changed me as a person. My outlook on life has changed. I was brought back from the jaws of death.
"I live life for the moment now. I do write a plan for the year but I do not live for the future, I live for the moment. I want to enjoy every day and the fact I can eat again. For one year I couldn't eat or drink."
The couple said they wanted to express their gratitude to staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and the transplant centre at Oxford University Hospital for their part in his survival.
Mrs Valentino said she researched non-mainstream methods to see if they could help.
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Following their wedding in 2017, they visited a healer on their honeymoon in Bali and approached a private clinic in Jurmala, Latvia, to try a 'cancer cure' vaccine, spending almost £10,000 to bring the drug home.
Mrs Valentino said "He was really on his death bed. Every morning he woke up it was a miracle. We packed our lives with more 'I love yous', meaningful conversations, holidays, adventures and priceless time together."
Mr Khosravi added: "I thought I would take my chances."
In November 2017, Mr Khosravi was admitted to Guist ward at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and put on an intravenous feeding tubes for the next year as he could not eat.
The couple thanked Dr Charlotte Pither, Professor Forbes from the ward for their care.
Then in January 2018, the couple went to the transplant centre at Oxford University Hospital to find out more about the bowel transplant surgery.
Two teams of surgeons would be required for the procedure which could take between 15 and 18 hours to complete. Doctors would open the abdomen to remove the small and large intestines and the tumour before transplanting a healthy donor bowel.
Mr Khosravi became the ninth patient in the world to have the operation in September 2018.
The couple knew the transplant had low survival rate but were inspired after meeting Adam Alderson, who was the first person to survive the treatment.
"I just wanted them to try," Mr Khosravi said, "If I did not wake up that was alright but I just wanted them to try."
He did survive and since recovering, Mr Khorsravi has returned to work part time, enjoyed flying a microlight and is preparing to run 10k to raise money for the Steve Prescott Foundation.
Mr Prescott, a former England rugby player, was the first ever person to undergo the transplant, which lasted 32-hours in 2013.
The 39-year-old survived the procedure but died as a result of graft-versus-host-disease, a complication that can occur following transplants.
Mrs Valentino said: "Thank you donor, thank you surgeons, doctors and nurses."
The couple also thanked the 'incredible support' from charities including Star Throwers, Big C and Brundall-based Maggies.