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Liver transplant keeps Eddie right on the ball.

E DDIE Reynolds was told he had only eight weeks to live - 16 years ago.

In a last-ditch attempt to save his life, surgeons operated and now the 55-year-old can boast being the longest surviving liver transplant patient in the Midlands.

Eddie scrapped his Sunday league football career when he became ill in 1981 and the prospects were slight of even surviving until the next season - never mind taking to a pitch again.

But Wolverhampton-born Eddie, who was suffering from liver cancer, fought back from the brink of death and is now fitter than ever. He is a regular competitor in the Transplant Games, which are set to be staged in Birmingham next year, playing volleyball and taking part in the shot-put.

And he has made an emotional return to his beloved football - as a coach to the team he used to play for. Now he is gearing up to steer his side, called simply United, to promotion in the Wolverhampton and District Sunday League.

Eddie also insists on finding time to promote transplants and has roped the Wednesfield-based team into a fund-raising drive to generate cash for the Transplant Games in June.

He recalled: "It all started in August 1981 when I went a bit off the boil healthwise, but it wasn't until the Christmas that I knew there was something seriously wrong.

"I went to see lots of different doctors and they basically told me to go home, dig a hole, jump in and wait."

"I was eventually referred to a doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Paul McMaster. At last someone gave me some hope. He wanted to give me a liver transplant.

"That was fine but my wife was seven months' pregnant at the time and I refused to have the operation until she had had the baby.

"My second son was born on April 28, we had the christening the week afterwards and the week after that I had the operation."

Eddie has now dedicated his life to his sport, United and promoting transplants and organ donation.

He has never met the family of his donor because 16 years ago it was not allowed. Today it is encouraged. But Eddie said that he was happy not knowing who the donor was.

He said: "I fear that there might be some resentment from the family - seeing that through their relative's death I am still here after such a long time. It could be very upsetting for them and I wouldn't want to put them through that.

"Besides, I wouldn't know what to say to them. I don't think there are words to express how grateful and thankful I am. I really thought I was going to die. If it wasn't for organ donations and transplants I would not be here today.

"Having the transplant knocked me for six but I had amazing support from my family, the doctors and people who had already been through it.

"Now I just want to scream from the rooftops how good it is to offer to donate your organs and how amazing transplants are.

"All of my close friends and family have donor cards. They know how it gave me a new lease of life and they want to be in the position to be able to give someone else that same opportunity."

The father of three, who lives in Wednesfield, often gets together with fellow transplant patients to promote donor cards and transplants. He firmly believes that people should be automatically entered on to a national data base of donors and only be rem oved if they apply to opt out.

"So many people just don't get around to filling in a donor card," he said. "Automatic inclusion on a national data base is the only way to ensure there are enough organs available for the hundreds of people across the country who need them."

Now Eddie, as well as gunning for his side to win the league, is setting his sights on raising funds to promote next year's Transplant Games and make them the best ever. He has already raised cash through charity football matches and some of the players took part in the Wolverhampton marathon.

When Eddie is put through his paces at the Games it will be more than 17 years since the operation - since someone gave him the gift of life in their hour of tragedy.

Have you faced a dramatic turning point in your life? Or benefited from an organ transplant? Write to Talkabout, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AZ.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 27, 1998
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