Transplant gave victim a new life

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The Independent Online
To describe Leslie Thorpe as a happy man misses the mark by a mile. He is ecstatic, writes Celia Hall.

Mr Thorpe, 46, a company director who lives in Brighton, has been a haemophiliac all his life. For 12 years he suffered from hepatitis C, infected by a contaminated supply of the blood-clotting agent Factor VIII.

Until this June. Five months ago, extremely ill from a failing liver caused by the hepatitis, Mr Thorpe had a successful liver transplant. The transplant ``cured'' his haemophilia and treatment with the drug Interferon cured his hepatitis.

``It really seems to be a miracle. I am having a marvellous time. I am eating well, walking the dog, staying awake all day and going out at night. I am stronger. I don't know what to do with all my energy,'' said Mr Thorpe.

As a boy he coped reasonably well with his haemophilia. ``I was always covered in bruises, I looked like a battered child and I had nosebleeds at night,'' he said.

In 1982 he needed to have a tooth extracted and was given Factor VIII before the surgery. ``About a month later I became very ill with hepatitis but I got over it. Then in 1990 it all started coming back.'' He was admitted to the prestigious liver unit at King's College Hospital, London. Again he recovered, but not fully.

For more than three years his liver disease progressed. ``I was yellow [jaundiced]. I was tired, I was weak, I couldn't keep food down. I had always maintained a good level of fitness. It was difficult.''

Facing liver failure, Mr Thorpe was offered a transplant operation. ``I was absolutely terrified. All my life I knew haemophiliacs could not have operations. Two brothers died because they could not have surgery. I absolutely believed I would not survive it,'' he said.

But medicine had moved on, his physician, Dr Christopher Tibbs, a hepatitis specialist at the liver unit, explained.

Mr Thorpe's blood was boosted with large amounts of Factor VIII before his surgery so that his blood would clot. Afterwards his new liver took over. Dr Tibbs said that because Factor VIII is made in the liver, the donor liver from a non-haemophiliac removed the symptoms.

Mr Thorpe said: ``At my last test my blood was clotting normally. I still keep pinching myself. I can barely believe it.''

(Photograph omitted)

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