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NHS 70 - Ricky's Lifeline - The miracle of modern medicine

Ricky Moate's story is a perfect and timely reminder of just how far medicine has advanced since the founding of the NHS 70 years ago.

Ricky was close to death with a badly diseased bowel Credit: Editorial

The 34-year-old from Sheffield has been given a lifeline - thanks to a brilliant surgical team at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford - one of only two adult centres in the UK which specialise in bowel transplants.

Yet Ricky knows better than anyone that it wouldn't have happened had it not been for someone's desire to help others and join the organ donor register.

For that person, life came to a premature end - but their selfless act before they died means that Ricky and others will benefit from the organs which have been donated.

That donation has saved Ricky's life. He knew he was in urgent need of a bowel transplant - but it wasn't until AFTER the operation at the Churchill Hospital that surgeons revealed to him that his own bowel was so badly diseased that he was close to death himself.

Ricky's operation took more than 10 hours Credit: Editorial

We can't reveal the date of Ricky's operation or where the donated organ came from to protect the identity of the person who died.

What we can say is that Ricky received a call at half past three one morning from the transplant co-ordinator telling him that a donor bowel had become available and he had to get to Oxford as quickly as possible.

Once the donated bowel had been checked for its suitability (Ricky had suffered several false alarms before because an organ wasn't a perfect match) the transplant team started to prepare him for surgery.

Twenty four hours later, the operation had been carried out successfully, and Ricky was already on the road to recovery. It had been challenging for the surgical team, not least that getting access to Ricky's veins was hugely difficult.

You have to understand Ricky's history to appreciate the problems involved. A birth defect called gastroschisis left him with life-threatening complications.

At the time doctors in Hull, where he was born, told his parents that it was unlikely he'd survive. Against all odds, he did survive. He's had 66 major operations over the years and that's led to most of his veins being damaged.

His intestinal problems meant things we all take for granted like eating and drinking caused him severe pain.

He was born with a defect called gastroschisis Credit: Editorial

Simply by having a transplant, Ricky says he's one of the lucky ones. In the past 10 years, in Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, over 500 patients have died while waiting for a transplant - including some of Ricky's friends.

It's made him even more determined to get across the message about organ donation, and how important it is for all of us to have that conversation with our loved ones.

The signs are that the message is slowly filtering through. Last year, 375 people across our region received an organ transplant - the highest ever number.

And Ricky will be forever grateful to the organ donor. He says that one day he'd like to meet the family of the donor to say thank you for giving him a lifeline.

Ricky is keen to show the importance of organ donation Credit: Editorial

I'm relieved. Emotional still, part of me, because without the donor and the family willing to be generous at such a grief-stricken time for them to make that decision, has given me the opportunity to live.

So it's something, even though I don't know who they are or where they're from, I don't know anything about them, doesn't mean to say you don't have to remember them

– Ricky Moate
He was keen for us to follow his story no matter the outcome Credit: Editorial

From meeting Ricky for the first time back in February, he's made it clear he wanted us follow his journey - whether the outcome was good or bad.

And all along, his optimism has impressed his surgeons. On the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Ricky Moate couldn't be a better advert for the health service which saved his life.

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