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Moray man ‘so grateful’ after undergoing life-saving liver transplant and urges others to get scanned

William McHaffie lying in hospital bed and on the right is a graphic of a skeleton highlighting the liver
William McHaffie's life was saved by a liver transplant and now wants others to get checked

A man has highlighted the importance of getting a liver scan after undergoing a life-saving operation.

William McHaffie was left with multiple cancerous tumours in his liver following a long-term battle with cirrhosis.

The 63-year-old, of Aberlour, was diagnosed five years ago after moving up to Moray with his wife from the Borders.

“I was having my liver monitored and I decided to go to Dr Gray’s Hospital just to get a test and it came back, unfortunately, saying I had cancer in my liver,” he said.

“When I first heard that news I was devastated, my wife was with me and she was upset as well, it’s quite difficult to deal with that diagnosis.”

William has shared his own experience to encourage others to take up the opportunity to get their liver scanned to check for any problems.

The British Liver Trust is holding six mobile screening sessions across Scotland, including in Inverness on Sunday.

‘I woke up thinking I was going to die’

William McHaffie with his wife Gillian and dog Theo.

After undergoing further tests and scans, William was told he had three tumours in his liver and later underwent a life-saving transplant.

“I was told when they did the scans I had three tumours in my liver. It has to be under a certain size otherwise they can’t operate, it was shown just under what it needed to be.

“I was relieved because it was really the only thing that was going to save my life, with a tumour that size, I was made aware I didn’t have a lot of time left.

“It was really stressful because you’ve got to find a match, there’s a number of problems and there were these statistics about finding a match and what can go wrong.

“I remember waking up one day and thinking there was a 100% chance I was going to die,” he said.

‘I broke down’

William was told to keep his mobile phone on him at all times because he could be called about a match at any moment.

He took the call while setting up a camp for the night with Gillian while they were out mountain climbing.

“I didn’t know if I was going to survive and Gillian asked me if there’s anything I’d like to do,” he said.

“I said ‘the only thing I want to do is get up a mountain with you’. I always liked climbing the hills and the mountains in Scotland and she’d never been up one.

William and Gillian McHaffie on top of snowy mountain
William and Gillian on their mountain walk.

“We went to a campsite at the Glen up from Aviemore and I only had one bar in the phone and it went off. Luckily, I had enough reception to answer it.

“It was the liver transplant team to say they had a liver for me and could I make my way down to Edinburgh – it was about 4am by the time we got there.

William admitted he “broke down” after learning where his liver was coming from.

“The only time I broke down, and I still find it difficult to talk about it, was when I was told it was someone being kept alive by life support and it was going to get shut off,” he said.

“Then the transplant coordinator said the life support had been cut off. I had to go into the toilet because it became real for me then.”

‘To grow old with my wife is all I wanted’

William, who has also suffered eye problems with third nerve palsy, urged people to take up the chance of a liver scan.

He highlighted the impact his new liver has had on his life.

He added: “I love life, I didn’t know whether I’d get this chance or not. I’m so grateful and the liver transplant unit was fantastic.

William McHaffie lying in hospital bed following liver transplant
William McHaffie recovering in hospital after liver transplant.

“I have had complications to my health such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but I’ll tell you what, to live more years and grow old with my wife is all I wanted.

“There are many people who’ve got liver disease. It’s a massive problem and if people can take a scan, it might stop people from dying.

“I wouldn’t still be alive today if it hadn’t been for the intervention of the medical team.”

Information regarding the British Liver Trust’s screening events can be found here


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