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Meet the Glasgow University student who donated part of her liver to save the life of a toddler

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Third year veterinary medicine student at Glasgow University, Hannah Ford, spent her 2017 Christmas break undergoing potentially dangerous surgery, in order to donate the left lobe of her liver to a fatally ill toddler.

The transplant was successful, and through this valiant act of kindness, 20-year-old Hannah was able to give the gift of life to a child she didn't know.

“The surgery went really well for both of us, and as far as I know neither of us had any serious complications," Hannah says.

"The hardest part of recovery was the first couple of days after the surgery, but I had visitors every day and people sent me lovely messages.”

Despite spending a further five days in hospital recovering from the surgery, Hannah has no regrets, describing the process as an “amazing experience.”

Considering the risk involved in the surgery – liver donation procedures have an average fatality rate of 1 in 200 - Hannah was also remarkably calm approaching the operation. This partly stems from her familiarity with medical procedure through university training in veterinary science.

“I’ve learnt about and seen different surgeries and I’m used to needles and things so going into hospital didn’t seem that daunting," she told us.

"Mostly I felt pretty confident and on the day of the surgery I was calm because I had a lot of trust in the surgical team.”

Hannah is from the small town of Ilkley in West Yorkshire, and the demand for live liver donation has been an issue close to her heart since the summer of 2017, when fatally ill local restaurant owner Luigi Pignanelli pleaded for a live liver donor via the forces of social media.

This prompted Hannah to register as a live donor, and although a liver became available for Luigi through the register before Hannah had been fully assessed for suitability, his case had made clear to her the urgency of the cause.

The scarcity of organs available for those in need of transplants means that many are less lucky than Luigi and die on the waiting list. In light of recent national campaigns to change the law on donation to an ‘opt-out’ rather than ‘opt-in’ scheme, Hannah is appealing to students to sign up to become a donor after they die. 

“The register isn’t to become a live donor, but to say that you are happy for your organs to be used after your death," she says.

"More than one person dies every day waiting for a transplant and only a third of the population is on the register. You are more likely to need a transplant than for any of your organs to be used!”

After donating in December, Hannah is now preparing to run the Edinburgh half marathon, on 27th May, to raise funds for The British Liver Trust.

Take a look at her fundraiser page to find out more, or to consider donating to her cause. 

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