Liver disease has changed over the years but my commitment to reducing deaths hasn’t.
I’ve had a fascination and passion for treating and preventing it since I was a medical student, training at the Royal Free School of Medicine under Dame Professor Sheila Sherlock who was the founder of liver disease as a speciality.
As a junior doctor I worked on both medical and surgical liver units, assisting in the first transplant conducted at the Royal Free when liver transplantation in the UK was in its infancy.
I vividly remember the terrible suffering of patients with end stage liver disease, coming in as an emergency, vomiting vast quantities of blood from oesophageal varices or with huge pregnant looking bellies distended with ascites which had to be drained. Patients were restricted to drinking very small quantities of water and eating virtually no salt. Others suffered psychoses or coma and then multiple organ failure resulting from their end stage liver disease.
In those days we didn’t wear gloves because we didn’t want to upset patients and make them feel untouchable. Hepatitis C had not yet been discovered and our options were very limited.