Gift of life - Woman given five days to live urges people to sign up to organ donor register

Alison Johns
Alison Johns

Imagine the clock is ticking. Imagine you have been given only five days to live by some of the country’s top medical experts.

That’s exactly the position Alison Johns was in five-and-a-half years ago.

She went to her doctors and was told she was suffering from flu.

Just a few weeks later, she was in Adenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge waiting for a liver transplant that would save her life.

Two potential livers were rejected.

On the fifth and final day, a suitable donor was found - the liver of a 17-year-old boy, killed in a road accident.

Since then, Alison has made a fully recovery and is a teaching professional at Woodhall Spa Golf Club.

She has decided to reveal her incredible story in a bid to persuade more people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.

In an exclusive interview with the News, Alison said: “In December 2008 I was ill. I went to the doctors with flu-like symptoms.

“I was really tired. Every time I had something to eat, I had a pain across my stomach.

“The doctor told me I’d got flu and to take antibiotics.

“I also asked him to have a look at my back. It was covered in spots. He said it was acne. I was 38. I’d never had spots before.

“At the time, my nephew was in Pilgrim Hospital in Boston. I saw my sister and said I’d pop and see him.

“By then, my eyes had turned yellow and she told me to go to A&E.

“I had some tests and the doctor told me: ‘It’s it something to do with your liver. We need to admit you. There’s something attacking your liver but we don’t know what it is.’”

Staff at the world renowned Adenbrooke’s Hospital were alerted and Alison was admitted.

On January 7 - and following further tests - she was told that unless she had a liver transplant, she would be dead in five days.

She was put on a ‘Super List’ for a donor.

Alison explained: “You’ve got five days to live. From being fit and healthy to that. You can’t believe what life throws at you.

“I needed a whole new liver. 80 per cent of my liver had been killed off.

“There are only six people on the Super List. I just thought I’d get one. You don’t think of the consequences.

“As time went on, my mind was scrambled. The first two livers weren’t any good. The clock was ticking.

”My legs were twice the size. Livers get rid of toxins so all the toxins were staying in my body.

“I thought I was going to die. Fortunately, the third liver - on the fifth day - was spot on.”

Alison acknowledges she is lucky and adds: “I truly got the gift of life.

“It is still like it hasn’t happened to me. It’s like I’m telling the story about someone else. That’s the only way you can deal with it.”

Alison has just returned from winning two medals - gold and bronze - at the British Transplant Games.

She hopes to go to Argentina next year to represent Team GB in the World Championships.

In the meantime, she is campaigning for a change in Government legislation regarding organ donation.

Alison explained: “At the moment, people have to opt onto the register and even then, relatives can override that decision.

“I’d like to see everyone automatically co-opted on to the list.

“In the UK, 10,000 people are waiting for a life saving transplant. Three die each day waiting.

“I can understand why people are reluctant to sign but the problem is until you know someone who has gone through organ donation, you never think about it.

“I never did. I never thought about being on the register but, as I said, it really is the gift of life.”

*To join the NHS Organ Donor Register, text SAVE to 62323, call 0300 1232323 or visit