Erica's story

Erica Ferguson, from Carrickfergus, has had two lifesaving liver transplants. Erica received her first transplant when she was 26 years old in March 2002 and her second in April 2004.

Erica is sharing her story to highlight the importance of talking about organ donation.

“Prior to my liver transplant I was a busy Mum, working in a thriving retail environment. Like every working mum, I juggled work and family life. I was very fit and healthy. I worked out and enjoyed spending time with my family and socialising.

“On Valentine’s Day 2002 I went to my doctor not feeling quite 100%. When I arrived at my doctor’s, the nurse was quite concerned with my skin colour and weight loss. The whites of my eyes were completely yellow in colour. The Doctor requested emergency blood tests. The results were back within two hours and I was then referred immediately to the Belfast City Hospital and admitted later that night.

“During the next two weeks I became very unwell and lost a lot of weight. The medical staff struggled to find a reason for my illness. At that stage they decided I should be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. On 1 March 2002 my husband Gary and I were airlifted with a nurse via private jet to Birmingham for what I thought would be a brief visit.


“On arrival, I was admitted to the specialist liver unit where they assessed the seriousness of my condition. After many tests I was told I had acute liver failure. On the 9 March I was told my only chance of survival was a lifesaving liver transplant. Soon after hearing this news my condition rapidly deteriorated and I was rushed into the Intensive Care Unit. My body had started to shut down as I had only approximately 48 hours to live without a lifesaving organ. I was then placed at the top of the International Organ Donor Register. I was so Ill the first available liver had to be given to me.

“On 11 March a lifesaving liver became available and the operation was a success. My donor was a 48-year-old man who had sadly had brain trauma. 

“Post-transplant, I unfortunately had many complications and spent much of the next year in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. My health deteriorated further during October 2003 and I was told that the main artery in the transplanted liver was blocked and could not be repaired. I would need a second lifesaving liver transplant. I was put on the transplant list and was told my wait may be much longer as I needed a whole liver that needed to be the perfect tissue type, blood group, size and body mass as me! Basically I required a perfect match!

Second transplant

“On 26 April 2004 I received the phone call at home that a donor liver had become available and the organ was the perfect match for me.

“I travelled overnight with my husband and mother to Birmingham, where the operation was to be performed the next day. My second lifesaving liver came from a teenage girl.

“Post-transplant I am doing well. I work full time and I am currently Chair of a local organ donation and transplantation charity. I have to take medication every day to keep my immune system suppressed, and have regular check-ups and need to be careful of infection, but I do not let that stop me from living and loving life!


Life after a transplant

“I feel very fortunate to have been given this wonderful gift of life. I am very grateful to my life saving organ donors and their families and I think about them every day.

“Organ donation can save up to nine lives and transform many more, but it can only happen if people actually donate. Sign the Organ Donor Register, and perhaps even more importantly, have the conversation with your loved ones and tell your family that you what to donate your organs, as it is them who will give final consent.

“I have been able see my daughter grow up, go to university and see her qualify as a teacher. I could be 17 years off this earth and my daughter, husband and family could be putting flowers on my grave. Instead, I am here living and loving life with my entire family, thanks to the generosity of two complete strangers who decided to say yes to organ donation.

“Life is precious and since I have been given a second chance I intend to put it to good use and enjoy every minute! I could never repay the generosity shown to me by my donors and their families, for giving me the gift of life.

“I live my life to its fullest for my two selfless organ donors and for myself. Organ donation has given me everything, which most of us take for granted! There is no greater gift than the gift of life. The need for organ donation is not selective – it can happen to anyone.

“Live life, then give life, as you will be giving someone like me the gift of life if you donate your organs.”