Twenty-five years of helping liver patients after lifesaving transplant

Jackie Knowles, left, and Ruth Perfitt who defied medics after receiving liver transplants. Photo: B

Jackie Knowles, left, and Ruth Perfitt who defied medics after receiving liver transplants. Photo: Bill Smith

When Jackie Knowles and Ruth Perfitt received lifesaving liver transplants, doctors could give no guarantee of their life expectancy after surgery.

The friends, who were brought together because they both had a rare liver disease, defied medics with one celebrating the 25th anniversary of her transplant and the other approaching the same milestone.

The pair, who helped establish the Norfolk and Norwich Liver Group, have pledged to continue to help others affected by primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), which happens when the immune system attacks the liver.

The transplant patients first met at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in January 1990 after Mrs Knowles, who had received her new liver a year earlier, was asked by a consultant to speak to Mrs Perfitt, who was seriously ill.

The 76-year-old, of Bramerton, said meeting Mrs Knowles was the 'turning point' for believing she could get better.

'This was the first person I had ever spoken to who could understand where I was at. It took me three days to say the words and three weeks before I told my husband that I needed a transplant. It was the most incredible shock,' she said.

Mrs Knowles, 65, of Crostwick, near Norwich, was diagnosed with PBC in 1987 and received her liver transplant two years later at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

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'25 years ago we were lucky to last a year. They said we would have every hope of getting off the table and every hope to survive a year. I am grateful to be here every day and I have a full life,' she said.

Mrs Perftt, who worked as a nurse at the N&N for 50 years, said she was planning a big fundraising event for the liver group next May when she marks the 25 anniversary of her transplant next year.

'The best encouragement we feel we can provide for those facing this ordeal is for them to meet survivors who are living completely normal lives as a result of this precious gift of life,' she added.

The group presented a £77,500 Fibroscan to the N&N last year, which eliminated the need for some liver patients to have invasive biopsies

The latest fundraiser for the Norfolk and Norwich Liver Group will be held on Saturday November 29 with a concert from Cover Notes at the Benjamin Gooch Lecture Theatre at the N&N from 7pm.

Tickets are £10 and available on the door, Ideal News, Market Place, Dereham, or by calling 01362 692784 or 01362 695624.