Running Helped Me Survive Liver Failure

Six months after a liver transplant, Ellie Lacey took part in the British Transplant Games, to honor the hero's - and the sport - that saved her life

British Transplant GamesEllie graces the podium

“The bad news, Mrs Lacey, is you are now at the top of the super-urgent liver transplant list. But the good news? You’ll be eligible to compete in the British Transplant Games!

It wasn’t exactly how the doctors put it, but it sums up my thought process.

My liver transplant certainly gave me a new perspective on running. Why do any of us run? For PBs? To stay fit and healthy? To lose weight? I run because I love running and everything about it. I’d never considered that running would save my life… or at least keep it ticking over long enough to be saved by the heroes in our wonderful NHS, or – as I call them – magicians.

In every sense, running got me through my unexpected and unexplained liver failure. My doctors told me my body was strong because I ran, which gave me precious extra hours for a donor organ to be found. My recovery has been smooth (touch wood) and swift for the same reason. And my place at the British Transplant Games, just six months post-op, gave my stubborn mind something to aim for.

Back from the brink

The annual Transplant Games promote the importance of organ donation. I was desperate to get to them this year, even if I finished last in every race – I needed a goal to help me run again. But getting back to running after a major op is hard. Doctors were frustratingly cautious and, when surgery was so unexpected, my brain couldn’t comprehend how to manage my body. After coming back from the brink, I was riding a wave of gratitude and felt indestructible. Reality would hit me with a bump. Or more accurately, with a suspected hernia, painful scar tissue, nausea, migraines, a bleeding stomach lining and plummeting iron levels… just the usual setbacks.

But I did make it to the games. I made it and even won some medals for my trouble! No medal will ever mean as much to me as the bronze I won in my first event – the 3K road race. I wanted to get to the games and show my donor how strong she’d made me. I didn’t expect to come third and I thought of her through every moment of pain in all five of my races. When I crossed the line in the 800m, taking gold, I felt like she’d given me wings.

British Transplant Games medalsEllie won five medals at her first Transplant Games

I know how lucky I am to be alive – to be able to run. Hearing my footsteps thud along a path is the sweetest sound. I turn off to everything else: I listen to my footsteps and I think about my donor. I hate that this happened to me, of course I do. But I’m also so aware of how much more alive I am now. Of how special every footstep is.

Reasons to run

I was lucky because I was saved, but you’re just as lucky – you didn’t even need saving! So here are two new reasons to run:

1/ Run because you never know when your body will need to be strong.

2/ Run because you can.

And if you need something to aim for, join me for my next goal in Uganda – the very special Running The Rift Marathon in November!

It goes without saying that organ donation is very close to my heart (literally). Please consider signing up to the organ register. My donor is my hero.

Written by Women's Running Magazine | 1499 articles | View profile

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