Ellie Lacey started 2017 by ‘turning yellow’. A fortnight later she was close to death but came through a liver transplant. And now she’s about to go for glory on the athletics track.
The British Transplant Games take place in North Lanarkshire from Saturday to Tuesday and will be full of remarkable stories. But few will be more amazing than that of Ellie, who has certainly had a year she won’t forget in a hurry.
Ellie, who grew up in the Witterings and whose family still live in the area, is a runner who created an event called ‘Running the Rift Marathon’ in Uganda.
She staged the inaugural one last November – just weeks after a cycle tour to Greece and getting married in Slovenia.
But at the end of November her health took a turn for the worse.
“I’d just returned from five months cycling across Europe and organising an international marathon in Uganda, I was very fit, active and healthy but felt a bit tired, a bit off,” said Ellie, 31.
I was put on the super-urgent liver transplant list. Toxins started reaching my brain and I didn’t recognise my husband. My family started being tested as liver donors but none was compatible and I was moved to intensive care.
“Blood tests confirmed my liver wasn’t happy but the doctors just said it was a virus and I’d fight it. Blood tests continued for the next month or so but doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong.
“Then on New Year’s Day I started turning yellow. Two days later I was admitted to hospital then six days after that I was taken to the Royal Free, London, by ambulance.
“I was put on the super-urgent liver transplant list. Toxins started reaching my brain and I didn’t recognise my husband. My family started being tested as liver donors but none was compatible and I was moved to intensive care.
“I lost consciousness. Things got a bit dicey, my husband was told I was in a life-threatening condition and wouldn’t survive more than 48 hours without a new liver, but at 11pm on Friday 13th, a match was found and the next day, I had seven-and-a-half hour surgery.”
Ellie was out of intensive care two days later, eternally grateful to the medical staff who had saved her and cared for her, and soon took her first steps. She was out of hospital on January 24 and six weeks later, tried her first tentative run... lasting ten seconds.
April brought Ellie’s first parkrun since her illness – and now the Transplant Games beckon.
She said: “I had never felt so euphoric or grateful as I did for the first three months after life-saving surgery. Everything glowed and my brain was in overdrive, wanting to make the most of every moment.
“My recovery felt excruciatingly slow for somebody so active – I couldn’t walk to begin with but in a few days I was. Running took a little longer and caused a bit more upset, but I had two goals to keep me focused, the Transplant Games and the second Running the Rift Marathon in Uganda this November.”
At the Transplant Games, Ellie has entered the 400m, 400m relay, 800m, 1500m and 3k. She said: “It’s all the running events that weren’t sprinting because I thought sprinting was a bit punchy six months after surgery and didn’t want my liver falling out. I can’t wait to meet other people who’ve been through similar things.”
She added: “They never found out what caused my acute liver failure which is scary because I don’t know what to avoid.
“I’ll be on anti-rejection meds for the rest of my life, these have to be quite strong for somebody my age to suppress the immune system enough.”
The Transplant Games helps to raise awareness of organ donation and promote active lifestyles. See more at www.britishtransplantgames.co.uk
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