Bucks County Council chairman Bill Chapple has revealed doctors gave him just two weeks to live as he left a poignant message to the anonymous liver donor who saved his life.
The long-serving Aston Clinton and Bierton county councillor – who is appealing for more people to carry donor cards - placed a note on the ‘Light Up A Life’ tree at a remembrance ceremony at South Bucks Hospice.
He was a special guest at the event along with other dignitaries and TV star Pauline Quirke.
Three years ago, Mr Chapple was given two weeks to live if a donor couldn’t be found for him.
He said: “I was suffering from liver disease and was told that if I didn’t have a transplant within roughly a fortnight it would be too late.
“Then a woman in her late 50s died suddenly and I was given her liver.
“I don’t know who she was because we are not allowed to know – but without her, I wouldn’t be here today and wouldn’t have met my young grandchildren or been able to give my daughter away in marriage.”
The 62 year old spoke out this week in an effort to encourage more people to become donors.
“I count myself as so very lucky and am so grateful to this woman for being a donor, so it is my hope that others are given the same chance of life that came my way,” he said. “No one wants to think about their own death but I would urge everyone to register as an organ donor so that if the worst happened to them, someone else could be saved.
“I am told the woman carried a donor card and her family agreed to her organs being used so she was placed on a life support while many people was called in for transplants. Someone had her heart, another had her lungs, and another was given her kidneys.”
Mr Chapple, who has served on Buckinghamshire County Council for 39 years, added: “I put a note on the tree simply saying ‘in memory of my liver donor’. I always think of her and – although I will never know who she is – I will never be able to forget her and I will always be indebted to her for giving me life when I was desperately ill and allowing me to see grandchildren.
“I have three grandchildren - Jimmy aged two-and-a-half, Ariella aged two and George aged one - so I would not have known them at all and see them grow up.
“I was just well enough to give my daughter away in marriage six months after my operation.”
He was suffering from non-alcoholic cirrhosis caused by a fatty liver. He is also a diabetic and is dependent on insulin.
“I was down to ten stone at the time and it really was touch and go. Now I am back to 14 stone. I live on 16 tablets a day but that’s a small price to pay.”
Mr Chapple also praised the devotion of his wife, Sue, and two children, William and Samantha, who cared for him after the operation and brought him back to ‘a controlled level of health’.
“The NHS told me they would not allow me to have the transplant unless I had a team in place to nurse me back to health afterwards – and in my case I lucky enough to have my family on hand,” he said.
Jo Woolf, Chief Executive of South Bucks Hospice, said after the service on Friday [December 11] in High Wycombe, which was attended by dozens of people, including dignitaries, patients and friends: “Bill Chapple’s story was very moving, and I hope people listen to his appeal to register as donors. The Light Up A Life tree means so many things to so many people, and I am glad that he was able to use it to honour the memory of this woman who allowed him to live.”
Becky Clark, specialist nurse organ donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, who is a team manager covering Buckinghamshire, said: “Organ donation saves lives, it is as simple as that. But in order to save more lives in Buckinghamshire and around the country, we need to ensure that many more people sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, and that they discuss their decision with those closest to them.
“If it is something that you agree with, we would urge you to sign up now at www.organdonation.nhs.uk and talk to your family about it.”
There are currently around 7,000 people on the transplant waiting list. She added: “Sadly, three people die every day in need of a transplant because there are not enough organs available. More donors are needed to save lives.”